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Posted Feb 10, 2010 in Arts | 0 Comments

Heifer’s Head: Damien Hirst’s “End of an Era”

End-of-an-Era

Damien Hirst is like an experiment that helps us answer a timeless question: if artists weren’t all so pitifully destitute, would they create better art? Answer: no, they wouldn’t. Their shit would just fetch about billion dollars more and be really, really bedazzled. Live and learn.

Throughout his storied career, Hirst has been death-obsessed, experimenting widely with formaldehyde and the carcasses of poor, floaty creatures. This, confoundingly, earned Hirst a name amongst the Young British Artists movement of the nineties in addition to making him one of the richest living artists in the world. And now he’s back, showing his latest work, “End of an Era,” at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. And what’s he got in store for us this time? More floating animals (surprise!) and some photo realistic paintings of diamonds, too. Honestly, it’s like the guy was jointly raised by a high school biology teacher and Catherine O’Hara’s character in Beetlejuice.

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The star of Hirst’s most recent show was a lobotomized, ethanol-soaked bull. Not entirely unlike his girlfriend, actually. The piece, entitled “End of an Era,” is the severed head of the same bull that starred in another of Hirst’s works, “The Golden Calf.” The bull’s head was apparently “dismembered from the majestic body of the earlier sculpture,” demystifying the “biblical tale and, by extension, debunk[ing] [Hirst's] own myth-making.” Or at least that’s what the press release says. I’d like to think of it as riding the same cash cow he’s been on since the early nineties. Although, who can really blame him? The “Golden Calf,” Hirst’s original formaldehyde-drenched beast, recently fetched $18 million from a wealthy patron/enabler and so I can only imagine how thickly it’s severed head will line his pockets. You see, the public? The problem here is you.

The potatoes to “End of an Era”‘s meat are those photo realistic paintings of diamonds I mentioned earlier. You’ve got to admit, though, they look shockingly real and it’s difficult to imagine someone actually painting them. It’s amazing to see that diamonds, of all things, can be similar to a decapitated bull’s head in formaldahyde: cold, sterile, shiny, oddly beautiful, and perfectly preserved for eternity.

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Rounding out Hirst’s opus is “Judgement Day,” a thirty-foot long gold cabinet filled with some 30,000 diamonds. Literally. Check it out for yourself below, or, if you’re in New York sometime soon, make sure to stop by the gallery and see the real thing.

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