Damien Hirst

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable
by Kelsey Keith
Yep, that’s a real title. A real title for a fictional shipwreck from which Damien Hirst plans to “excavate” “objects” and then paint them in “still lifes.” The Era of Formaldehyde (two decades, to be precise, starting with the Charles Saatchi-commissioned shark in 1991) is declared dead in the water, according to a Bloomberg interview with the artist on the eve of his latest Gagosian exhibition. That show, aptly titled End of Era, includes a pickled bull’s head with gilded horns and blinged-out wunderkabinet filled with 27,888 manufactured diamonds.

Peep the undercover Babelgum video of the Gagosian opening after the jump, plus some priceless quotes from the Hirster himself.

Speaking about Judgment Day, Hirst projects: “Something like this would be great in a museum or Jay-Z’s house.”

On the $18.6 million sale of The Golden Calf just two days after the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, Hirst points out the obvious provenance of his Gagosian exhibition title: “I thought that beheading the golden calf after you’ve sold the golden calf, it’s like the end of an era.” The calf in question wraps Hirstian excess, the worship of false idols, and the artist’s own mythology into one neat, formaldehyde-preserved package.

On cutting back during recessionary times: “I had a car and a driver for my mother and I also bought her a car. She had both for a while. Now she only drives.”

The kicker, an explanation of Hirst’s next big artapalooza:

“It’s a story of a ship, called the ‘Unbelievable,’ that sank 2,000 years ago,” Hirst said. “It was carrying a lot of treasures, sculptures, jewels and things like that, to create a palace. And it sank and was lost forever.” Though this prehistoric Titanic is pure fiction, the artist will treat it as reality. He plans to stage the discovery of the ship, send divers to recover its many treasures, photograph the process and then make paintings based on the photographs.

Sculptures will be based on famous works from art history, including Michelangelo’s “Rebellious Slave” at the Louvre in Paris. “I’ll predate them before Michelangelo almost like he’s seen them and copied them.”

And finally: Hirst says, “Is this real? Isn’t this real? What is real? Am I real?”

We find ourselves asking the same questions.

View the Babelgum guerilla video in fullscreen mode here.

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