artist / participant
Forgiving and Forgetting
July 6 - October 23, 2021
It’s all about what you want to believe. —Damien Hirst
Gagosian is pleased to present Forgiving and Forgetting, an exhibition of sculptures and new paintings by Damien Hirst. The presentation coincides with Archaeology Now, on view from June 8 to November 7, 2021, which intersperses more than eighty paintings and sculptures by Hirst among the historical collections of the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Forgiving and Forgetting includes works from Hirst’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, a project that presented sculptural relics from a fictional shipwreck off the coast of East Africa, playing fast and loose with linear time, cultural origin, and perceptions of relative status and value. Foregrounding these sculptures against an intricately woven tale of seafaring exploits, marine excavation, and laborious research, Hirst aimed to invoke feelings of wonder at their meticulous physical and conceptual fabrication.
The series debuted in 2017 with a suite of Treasures—ranging from pastiches of ancient and classical busts, masks, and statues to representations of iconic Disney cartoon characters—rendered in an extraordinary array of materials, many encrusted with colorful blooms of skillfully painted barnacles, as if salvaged from the ocean floor. Forgiving and Forgetting marks an ambitious phase in Hirst’s body of work; these sculptures are carved out of pink Portuguese marble and white Carrara marble, immortalizing each figure in one of the most storied materials in Western art history.
Each subject in its monochrome marble assumes the same gravitas; the playful wave of a coral-laden Minnie Mouse is echoed elsewhere in the gallery by the outstretched hand of the female centaur Hylonome, whose statuesque form conjures both Baroque corporeality and the stately symmetry of French Neoclassical sculpture. Sparking unexpected interactions between ancient and modern, Hirst’s Treasures exemplify the idea of myth making that lies at the core of culture, both high and low.
Hirst will also reveal his latest series, the Reverence Paintings. Originally seeking to reimagine the vibrant Cherry Blossoms in allover white, he began to overlay shifting dabs of color and flecks of gold leaf across the otherwise monochrome canvases, allowing them to take on a vivid and shimmering dynamism. Covered with bright impasto dots that add both perspectival grounding and visual haze to each composition, the ReverencePaintings underscore Hirst’s acute sense of color, expanding upon the expressionistic and pointillist impulses that have inspired his recent bodies of work.