Tate Modern is currently hosting a Damien Hirst retrospective, which has attracted a lot of mixed publicity. I’m no art critic, but I know what I don’t like. Thanks to a borrowed Tate Member card, I was able to disapprove of the artworks in person, at no cost. It goes without saying that photography is not allowed inside this exhibition (although it is allowed in the Tate’s permanent collection), but it is possible to take sneaky shots, as we demonstrate below.
You can see Hirst’s famous diamond skull, For the Love of God, for free in the turbine hall, where it’s housed in a black room, surrounded by security staff.
Once inside, it takes a moment to get your bearings – it’s completely dark, and you run the risk of treading on the feet of the person next to you. The only lights are those shining directly onto the skull, a platinum cast of a real human skull, covered in over 8,000 diamonds. The effect of the black room and the spotlit diamonds is literally dazzling – as is the object’s supposed worth, something like £50 million.
Outside, a stall with diamond skull merchandise waits to tempt you. No one was buying when we passed by.
Inside the paid exhibition is a plethora of spot paintings, and the predictable preserved animals, including this rather sad-looking shark. Who is he, where did he come from, and what did he do to deserve this?
Continuing the natural history theme, there are skulls, pickled sheep, preserved fish, anatomical models, surgical instruments, pill packets, and a hothouse of live butterflies. Basically, lots of things that are (or soon will be) dead.
It was all vaguely like the Natural History Museum or the Hunterian, minus the descriptive context. Why is it that educational museums seem to be only for kids, while intellectually barren modern art galleries are the destination of choice for adults?
Just to drive home the point that so much of contemporary art is superficial, meaningless bollocks, a giant ashtray full of cigarette packets and butts confronts you, as you approach the exit.
Beyond the butts and hovering beach balls is this anatomical statue, with a butterfly mosaic background, reminiscent of stained-glass windows. To my mind, this is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the artworks, but that isn’t saying much.
In the gift shop, the cheapest item is a £2.50 gift card, but you can also drop tens of thousands of pounds on limited edition Hirst skulls and prints. It’s one last excuse to feel outraged at the state of contemporary art, before taking your leave.
Damien Hirst exhibition runs until 9 September 2012. For the Love of God is on display in the turbine hall until 24 June 2012.
Photos by Sven Klinge
(please credit photographer & website when using these photos)