The Gagosian Gallery is running an impressive exhibition on Damien Hirst ‘s Dot Paintings. They are on view at their three Manhattan locations, one in the Upper East Side, two in Chelsea. But it’s not an all exclusive NY thing. You can go and admire Hirst’s dots also in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Athens and Hong Kong. At the same time!
The question why the Gagosian is organizing this worldwide event has come up. Some say they do it merely because they can. Whatever the reason, it has become the talk of this town (and maybe others too).
I bravely started my excursion in the Upper East Side gallery. Three floors filled with the well known colored dots in household gloss on white canvas. The canvases ánd the dots range from tiny to large. Where the larger ones make you step back to take them in, the tinier ones draw you up close. But the experience can be completely different. Let’s say the smallest ones are the most intimate.
Regardless of the size, one tries to step into “the world according to Hirst”. And I guess that all the guests there were asking themselves the same question? Is this art? Or is Hirst more a graphical designer? I couldn’t stop thinking of his works as being some of Ikea’s fabric designs. Wait a second! I immediately have to add that Ikea brings good design too! In the same spirit as Hirst’s dots: clean, fresh and happy. That could be their biggest asset. They are not at all depressing. Not like his skulls, as some may think.
Hirst is a very prolific artist. That’s why it’s possible to fill up all these galleries with his paintings, and only his dot paintings! The reason for this extensive oeuvre might be the fact that Hirst works with assistants. I am sure he directs and guides the works, but the dots are painted on the canvases by all different persons. It’s not a unique practice. Rubens has done it before him. But it makes you wonder, and maybe raise an eyebrow.
The Chelsea galleries bring the bigger canvases together. As the canvases get bigger, the dots can go bigger too. But the more the dots go big, the less you can call them dots.
In one of the rooms I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between someone of the gallery and what I think was a potential buyer. The Gagosian guy was leading a fur coated lady through the rooms in an a-gallery tempo. The lady was looking for a canvas, a decent size, but “houseable”. So I learned a new word today. Also interesting to hear was the explanation of the price. There’s logic in the fact that a huge painting may cost more than a similar small one. But then he said that the smaller the dots, the costlier the painting was. Oh sure, the lady said, that’s more labor intensive. They nodded in understanding. I walked on.
I decided to continue my quest on my own. To see and feel for myself.
Yes, there was something to it. The pristine white rooms dotted with hundreds of colored…dots. I can’t say that the sight was overwhelming, but at some moments it did make my head turn. No, that was not an unpleasant feeling at all!
Standing up close to a huge canvas, things started to move! In an optical illusion, the painting began to turn into a globe, giving the whole thing a tridimensional appearance.
Also, while fixing your eyes on one particular dot in the middle, all the dots of the same color seem to stand out, in this way making different lines and patterns visible.
Like I said, walking in a room full of dots and only dots is quite an experience. The guards in black, friendly as they were, sometimes got me distracted!
And by the time I got used to, and even started to like, the repetitiveness of the square canvases and the round patches, all of a sudden there was a triangular canvas and some circular ones. It was as if Hirst at one point got bored doing the same thing and tried to give everything a twist by experimenting with the shape of the canvas. Good thing he didn’t try that out on his dots! (with the exception of a couple of half dots, which were really disappointing)
I did all three galleries in one big afternoon effort, tired, but glad I did it.
If you happen to be in one of the above mentioned cities, you should check it out. Who knows, the dots might inspire you…
DOT : this world wide event precedes the first major museum retrospective of Hirst’s work opening at Tate Modern in London in April 2012
DOT : see the free Gagosian App for Ipad
DOT : for some dots on your screen go to http://www.gagosian.com