Sunday, 19 August 2012

THE TATE IS NOT GREAT, DAMIEN AND BRITAIN ARE

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This summer, I have wondered why the Damien Hirst exhibition came under attack, I actually defended him in the Huffington Post. Now I understand. As Britain's most prolific and exciting artist, his pieces at the Tate Modern were reduced to ordinary by the unimaginative curation of Ann Gallagher, and confines of the 14  cramped rooms at Tate Modern.  Why do they have people in England who are clearly intellectual curating shows of visual worth. Charles was able to do this because he is a visionary. I bet Ann lives at home with a cat.

There is nothing like the curation of Charles Saatchi. Oh, the excitement, the wonder at seeing artwork for the first time. I saw this show when it first opened, full of people, so I did not understand what the mealy-mouthed, miserable critics were saying. Now I can see.  


Damien is not at fault, the curation is. Why did they not use the turbine hall?  Why did they cram so much into such small spaces? His pieces are huge. 

The shark was reduced to a sideline, a fish in a tank, "The Physical impossibility of Death in the mind of someone living 1991?" . This was the problem. Damien, like his titles, is about excess, about over the top, and I agree with everything he stands for, especially his views that smokers are not to be trusted. Likewise, old drug users, drunks - and of course he was one himself. 

He is now a cleaned up version of his old self (if still on the fags).  So the Tate gave him the fag ends. His butterfly room, "In and Out of Love" sort of worked.  But I remember first seeing his work in Boundary Road, the darling theatre, gallery and museum of Charles Saatchi. 

I was shocked for a week, left with thoughts that have stayed with me ever since. I was there watching a man pour ink into the lamb vitrine, "Away from the flock" at the Serpentine Gallery. I saw it turn black. I saw the pieces in Charles and Kay Saatchi's drawing room and hall. I was in awe. 

This time in minutes the politically correct Tate Museum – not Gallery – bored me to tears, I was left with souvenirs that cannot be destroyed by average Britain. Damien is great and so his work. The Tate Modern is not. I wonder if Damien was too flattered by the Tate to be tough enough? What we had was a history lesson not a living exhibition by a living artist.

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