Hirst @ Gagosian, Britannia & Davies Street

A common sight can be seen across eleven Gagosian galleries worldwide: dozens and dozens of brightly coloured spots by the highly praised Damien Hirst. I went along to the two London galleries to get my own look at this dotty display and the gallery has also set a challenge for viewers to visit all eleven locations, from Hong Kong to Geneva, in exchange for a signed spot print dedicated to you by Hirst himself, yet how realistic this is, is highly questionable.

I started off in Britannia Street, the larger of the two London galleries; full of large canvases covered in dots, from as many as one, to hundreds, maybe even thousands, ranging in a variety of sizes. There are 300 paintings on display, 100 of which are in London, with the vast majority being in this gallery. Huge rooms are full of canvases of squares, rectangles and triangles covered in spots, equally spaced out, with a space the size of the diameter of the spots in-between them. Being so similar, the paintings begin to merge into one another. The controlled substance paintings were somewhat more memorable than the others. These paintings had a key beside them, with the letters of the alphabet and a spot beside them, although I do not believe this had any real significance into the meaning of purpose behind the paintings. In such a large space, with so many similar paintings in such close proximity it is hard to really focus on any one painting and describe it fully.

For me, Davies Street was calmer, the pieces smaller. They seemed to me to be displayed in a pattern, but possibly the sheer size of the tiny one room gallery made me concentrate more. They reflect the location, small paintings for a small gallery, whereas Britannia Street can be a little overwhelming. The pieces here were all of similar size, whereas Britannia Street was a little more varied. Still, none of the works particularly stood out or left a big impression, apart from being extremely repetitive, it was a small scale repeat of the previous gallery.

While I really wanted to love the display, I keep asking myself what is the point? The paintings left no emotional impact. There are also hundreds of them, so this leads me to question their worth and sense of individuality as a work of art. They are titled after chemicals and drugs, so maybe the precision and uniformity could relate to something clinical, yet I feel overanalyzing them will not lead me to feel any differently about them. Hirst did not construct these paintings himself, his assistants did. Apart from making my eyes go a little funny, the whole display is enough to make you go dotty.

The Spots are on display at the London galleries until February 18, and are on show at other locations until March 17

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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