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Damien Hirst: Mandalas review

  • Art
Damien Hirst 'Noble Path' (2019) © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2019. Photo © Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Courtesy White Cube

Time Out says

Like a naughty, petulant toddler, the best thing to do when Damien Hirst starts acting up is ignore him. This time he’s acting up by ripping the wings off thousands of butterflies and arranging them into mandala shapes. Sigh. But people were queuing around the block for this opening of show of massive new works, so ignoring it isn’t an option and we might as well tackle it head on.

Across large canvases in both of the gallery’s spaces, Hirst – or Hirst’s assistants – has glued countless beautiful butterfly wings into household acrylic paint in swirling circular patterns. The wings are gorgeous, highly patterned, stunningly coloured. Some are iridescent, glowing, others are dark and sumptuous.

The thing is, they’d be even more beautiful out in nature, attached to the bodies they grew out of. I don’t care about the use of insects in his art, I'm not offended, but he hasn’t improved the natural beauty of butterflies by putting them on a canvas.

‘Oh but it’s a meditation on mortality and existence’– yeah, but that’s exactly what butterflies out in the wild are, you don’t need to chop them up and glue them in place to make that point, nature’s made it way better than Hirst ever could.

And these just aren’t attractive works, either. They look like the sort of crap you get in seaside galleries in Whitstable or something, tasteless guff for tasteless people. I mean, just imagine walking into someone’s house and finding they’ve got one of these on the wall, you’d run a mile.

I like a lot of Hirst’s work, but this new series has no redeeming features. It’s not shocking, it’s not clever, it’s not beautiful, and it’s not good. Can we all agree to pretend this culturally appropriative, ugly nonsense never happened and hope it goes away?

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel


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