Art, Antiques & Museums Arts & Culture

Tanks For The Memories. The Damien Hirst Exhibition at The Gagosian Gallery

  • March 31, 2022
  • 4 min read
Tanks For The Memories. The Damien Hirst Exhibition at The Gagosian Gallery

I’d never been introduced to Damien Hirst, but, in 1996 while working on Channel 4 TV’s music show The White Room, the series producer, Chris Cowey, invited me to Soho’s Groucho Club. A den of iniquity I’d already opted not to join as a member. Mainly because of what Marx said. Not Karl. Groucho. Hence the club’s name. But you all knew that, didn’t you? “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member”, being the actual quote. So I didn’t join.

Anyway, being curious and with no particular sense of direction, I found myself entering the club’s Pool Room where Oasis’s Liam Gallagher was chucking endless Billiard Balls at his brother Noel. All to the apparent amusement of one unshaven bloke who took the brunt of one mid chest. The said man was none other than ‘Brit Art’ hero Damien Hirst. Best mate of the Mancunnian ‘Brit Poppers’ Oasis. “Hello!”, I said, before beating a hasty retreat .Then, thwack! A billiard ball hit my head. Ouch! The lyrics to The Clash’s 1979 version of Brand New Cadillac – “Balls to you Daddy. I ain’t never coming back” – echoing in my sore head as I left the premises.

I didn’t return for over a decade. Finally heading back mid 2006 to find a more restrained version of The Groucho with no Oasis members nor Damien Hirst in evidence. Last Monday, however, I checked out the current Hirst exhibition at The Gagosian Gallery only to find that the building was closed for a private inspection by the elusive artist himself. A Security man in a black power suit peered around the opened main door, “We don’t open Mondays. Come back tomorrow big man”.

So I returned. Days later.

The biggest tank in the exhibition is the newly recreated ‘Shark in a tank of formaldehyde’. This is the overall theme here. Tanks for the memories.The exhibition is mainly described as an ‘audit’ of Hirst’s fishes in tanks. All of them? Certainly numerous ones. Apparently every domestic fish that one might’ve been able to consume till Brexit killed the UK’s fishing Industry dead in the water. ‘Dead’ is the ‘buy’ word here. The consumption of dead things uppermost on Hirst’s agenda. His slaughtered Cow & Calf exhibits are all on display. Most notably in a large tank that is a recreation of a traditional British Butcher’s Shop window. Hooked anaemic Poultry also hangs above trays of sliced greying Pork and Beef not yet fully decomposed in Hirst’s time-warp tank of blue-green liquid preservation. It’s really nauseating. And that’s the point! Above the tank hangs a blue and white striped awning. Below it echoes of angry childhood parenting via hand painted lettering that advises, “Shut Up & Eat Your Fucking Dinner!”

Want to become a vegetarian? You might well after this!

Before leaving the gallery, I told my photographer friend Pia of a time when as teenagers we were kicked out of The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh’s Hanover St at the height of Punk Rock. All due to our taking Polaroid snaps of mates standing by splash painted canvases. We mocked the exhibition.”Never Mind The Pollocks. It’s Art innit?”, I said. This led to the Gallery owner getting his lumpen Security men to march us outside, while we sang and danced The Conga, shouting, “Cha Cha, Cha” all the way to the exit. It was in that particular spirit – to the amusement of a Gagosian visiting St Martin’s Art College student – that the attached photo was taken. This time Security seemed to smile. “See you again big man”, said the doorman laughing as we went. “You may well do!”, I replied.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen this exhibition? I’d highly recommend it. In the year 2022, with the world in utter crisis, Damien Hirst continues to be a pertinent Punk Artist.

A gobbing voice of resistance that is laughing directly – full face – at our authoritarian establishment; and all the way to the bank, too. Long may he continue to do so.

About Author

Henry Scott Irvine

The published author of Procol Harum's hardback Omnibus Press biography, Henry Scott-Irvine's writing began in the script departments of the British film industry. He continued as a Film & TV 'Music & Arts' researcher. He has a long background in published journalism. A radio producer-presenter since 2009 as well as a producer of the award winning documentary film Tales From Tin Pan Alley. He's a successful campaigner for securing listings and preservation for London's music & film heritage sites.

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