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A first look at Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery

By Martin Coomer

We’re never happier than when donning high-vis vest, steel toe-capped boots and a hard hat, so we were positively overwhelmed with pleasure when the invitation came through to take a preview tour of Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery ahead of its official opening in October. Not that we really needed the kit. After three years of construction, the hoardings have come down on London’s newest art museum, which occupies five buildings old and new, including three former theatre scenery painting studios, between Vauxhall and Lambeth North. And inside, the finishing touches are well under way. With its spiral staircases, slinky ceramic handrails and beautiful roof lights it looks sublimely cool. And so it should. Hirst is said to have spent £25 million on the place. Newport Street is not just a statement of Hirst’s wealth, though, but a reflection of his first love – curating.The building will be home to changing exhibitions drawn from Hirst’s 3,000-strong Murderme collection, which includes pieces by fellow YBAs including Sarah Lucas as well as his great hero, Francis Bacon. Hirst is adamant that he plans to remain behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean his own work won’t appear in future shows. And while you may not be able to find any of his famously pickled specimens on display, there’s a definite Hirstian presence in the restaurant, which will be open from morning coffee to dinner.

Our tour took us through immense chambers for art, as well as more intimate spaces, designed by the art world’s favourite architects Caruso St John. Come October, these pristine acres of polished concrete and white walls will host ‘Power Stations’, a survey of one of Hirst’s favourite painters, the late British abstractionist John Hoyland who, during the 1960s and ’70s, was one of the few Brits to give New York’s art stars a run for their money. It’s shaping up to be the biggest art opening since Tate launched its modern art powerhouse at Bankside 15 years ago.

Newport Street Gallery opens with ‘John Hoyland: Power Stations (Paintings 1964-1982)' on October 8.

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