Welcome back! I hope 2018 has begun well for you all. I start my posts this year with an exhibition from last year, but one not to be missed if it travels your way…
Damien Hirst had me believing in the unbelievable at his exhibition in Venice – ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’. Knowing little about the artist and virtually nothing about the exhibition beforehand made it easy for me to think I had stepped through the looking glass into Alice in Wonderland!
Hirst had on display 189 sunken treasures retrieved off the seabed of the Indian Ocean, together with collections of flints, ingots and remnants of artefacts. The treasures were supposedly part of the hoard of the Apistos, a ship of a freed slave turned art collector, that apparently sank back in the first or second century AD and was rediscovered in 2008.
Mixed reactions from the art world described the exhibition as ‘An Unbelievable Journey to the Depths of Bling‘, ‘One Man’s Trash is Damien Hirst’s Treasure’ , as ‘once you’re in the joke it grows stale very quickly’! I think I cruised the entire time in awe, believing every word and stunned at every work presented. It was fabulous!
Just getting past the gigantic 18m+ Demon with a Bowl in the courtyard of Palazzo Grassi was a feat, and at each of the 3 floors of exhibits above he could be admired from every angle. Absolutely incredible, convincingly bronze, yet only painted resin, and assembled in stages as I found out later. From the Demon I became engrossed in the videos where a team of scuba divers worked hard to strap up the treasures found on the sea bed bringing them to safety above…..from the most delicate ancient jewellery to the monstrous sun disc and calendar stone together with Mickey Mouse and Goofy covered in barnacles and seaweed! What’s going on??
In fact the exhibition presents like an archaeological museum with various collections of coins, rare jewellery, precious minerals, weapons, and helmets alongside ‘recovered’ treasures, ‘restored’ treasures and ‘copies’ of treasures……
and the Collector himself, Damien Hirst.
The sheer scale of the exhibits and relative authenticity, especially at the Punta della Dogana, continued to impress, even if I was I being taken for a ride, or on a journey in a time machine. Whatever, I was enjoying the unexpected, the audacity, the joke. As my friend said “you may not like the Art work but whatever it is it must be done well” and these treasures were certainly done well.
As the legend goes ‘the slave accumulated an immense fortune on the acquisition of his freedom. Bloated with excess wealth, he proceeded to build a lavish collection of artefacts…..commissions, copies, fakes, purchases and plunder, which lay submerged for some two thousand years.’
Damien Hirst when asked is it Myth or Fact replied “whatever you choose to believe!”
Still stunned by what we had seen we left the exhibition, passed through the ‘looking glass’ out to the real wonders of Venice…..