Wednesday, 1 November 2017


Later than I'd hoped here's the first of two posts (mostly pictorial) celebrating Damien Hirst's monumental exhibition, Treasures from the WRECK of the Unbelievable, currently on show in Venice, Italy until 3 December.

Here's the official blurb:
The exhibition is displayed across 5,000 square meters of museum space and marks the first time that Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the two Venetian venues of the Pinault Collection, are both dedicated to a single artist.

Damien Hirst’s most ambitious and complex project to date, ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ has been almost ten years in the making. Exceptional in scale and scope, the exhibition tells the story of the ancient wreck of a vast ship, the ‘Unbelievable’ (Apistos in the original Koine Greek), and presents what was discovered of its precious cargo: the impressive collection of Aulus Calidius Amotan – a freed slave better known as Cif Amotan II – which was destined for a temple dedicated to the sun
Everything from the words "the exhibition tells the story of..." onwards might be described as 'a grand deceit' or, to put it more directly, 'one enormous lie', for nothing exhibited is what it seems. Greek and Roman coins are fakes – aged as if with centuries of use – even the fragile nautilus and clam shells are painted bronze.

However, such is the cumulative effect of Hirst's vast creation – by turn beautiful, bizarre and downright bonkers – that the visitor is challenged to consider what makes something believable or unbelievable; to question what is art and what is artifice; whether an artifact displayed in a museum or gallery with the appropriate curatorial labeling is, necessarily, authentic simply because it is presented with the tropes and trappings with which we are familiar from centuries of being taught how to look at art and apprise culture.

The scope of these exhibits – busts, statues, weapons, armour, toys and trinkets crafted in Carrara marble, gold, silver, crystal, jade and lapis lazuli – is a staggering achievement by Hirst and his studio of artists. So, too, is the supporting documentation in the form of film footage of the treasurers – encrusted with centuries of coral – being found by divers and raised up from their watery resting place.

Every now and again the visitor may catch Damien Hirst giving a tell-tale wink: a striking similarity between say one of the, as yet unidentified, pharaohs or ancient deities and Kate Moss or Rihanna or sly jokes referencing Ray Harryhausen or Walt Disney, all of which only add to the delightful cock-snooking impertinence of this wild enterprise!

First we will enter the Palazzo Grassi – and while you are there, just click on any image to enlarge...


Photos: © David Weeks and Brian Sibley, 2017

Click HERE to visit Part 2 of the exhibition


Michael G. said...

Absolutely incredible! And Goofy as well. Some of the figures are reminiscent of the character of Talos from Harryhausen's 'Jason and the Argonauts'! Stunning!

Becky Dillon said...

This exhibition is probably one of the most ambitious in recent memory. It expresses art in such a way as to draw in the viewer; blurring the lines in the mind's eye between the Fantastic and the Real.
I truly loved all of the photos - thank you for sharing - and would enjoy a catalog, if such a thing exists. I'll attempt to find something re: the exhibit and documentation on-line! I am looking forward to Part 2!

Brian Sibley said...

Thank you, Becky. The exhibition is exactly as you say. It also occurs to me that is a piece of theatre. There is a catalogue, but it's expensive!