A shipwreck was discovered by divers in 2008 off the African coast and Damien Hirst was enlisted for funding so the ancient artifacts could be recovered. The impressive finds had been collected by a freed slave named Cif Amotan II and included a severed head of Medusa and several statues of pharaohs. The treasure dates back two millennia and was sent to an island museum. The treasure has now been organized by Damien Hirst and the exhibition in Venice even includes coral-encrusted statues of Goofy and Mickey Mouse. This exhibition represents Hirst’s first major showing in well over ten years. Ersatz artifacts are paired with a fictional backstory. Staged videos of the fake treasures being excavated by divers support the exhibit. The ancient statues show the faces of Rihanna and Kate Moss and restored and encrusted versions of the artifacts are on display. The show has been dubbed Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.
The exhibit is a financial risk for Damien Hirst. According to the New York Times he has invested millions. The exhibit sprawls across Punta Della Dogana, Palazzo Grassi, and François Pinault. His irony is similar to Tom Sachs although Hirst’s humor is more kitschy. Hirst has taken his exhibit to new extremes and done so on a Hollywood budget. For more details on Damien Hirst’s exhibit please visit https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2017/04/10/damien-hirst/#101c4a3f26ec.
The production scale is already being compared to Cecil B. DeMille but the audacity of the showmanship he uses is similar to P.T. Barnum. The exhibit is being called a spectacle that goes well beyond the world of art. This is what gives Damien Hirst’s work a meaningful impact. In an era where truth has been metastasized into blatantly fake news this assault on the credulity of art has artistic originality. Only time will reveal if he has hit his mark.