On January 12, Gagosian unleashed Damien Hirst's Complete Spot Paintings across its constellation of art galleries-- New York, London, Paris, Athens, Los Angeles, Geneva, Hong Kong and of course Rome. All eleven galleries were all about Hirst's spot paintings from 1986-2011- a series of 1400 paintings of varying sizes where colored spots evenly cover a white background. All fun and games, even after Gagosian announced The Damien Hirst Spot Challenge. Hirst supersized.
Hirst is one of contemporary art's bad boys. Liked and disliked for his personality, way of life and how/if he produces art, Hirst and his work have been in the press since 1992, thanks to Charles Saatchi's Young British Artists. He's a renegade, art world infidel and assembly-line boss, or perhaps Jeff Koon's long lost and annoying little brother who will do anything to get you to notice him.
Like I said, I really tried hard to dislike the Spot paintings and especially the concept of Hirst retrospective. Aren't spots supposed to be spontaneous while dots are deliberate, much like all of Hirst's work? If they must be spots, than I rationalized that this retrospective was an outbreak, an itchy Damien Hirst rash that would get worse if you touched it.
I was wrong, but yes, it is contagious. I loved the paintings in Gagosian Rome's oval-shaped hall- whimsical, colorful, stark, it was like being in childhood favorite Put Me In the Zoo (Robert Lopshire). I kept going back. Once a week, I walked into Gagosian, said hello to Olivia, the gracious gallery girl who thought my repeat visits were some kind of joke. And I brought friends who, like me, were dubious of anything Damien and just like me, they gave in to those nail polish matching, twister contorting, ball juggling, crucifixing dots.
Thank you, Shannon.
Put Me in the Zoo: Thinking about Damien Hirst as a Bedtime Story (New York Observer, Adam Lindemann)