Damien Hirst is amongst those modern artists who have been most talked about and divided opinion. Loved or hated, praised as a genius or derided as a clever entrepreneur able to sell anything at astronomical prices, Hirst’s works revolve around the concepts of life, death and survival by probing modern obsessions with religion, medicine and the glorification of materiality.
Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is the monumental exhibition that brings the artist to the centre of the international scene after years of absence, with a project that crosses the boundary of modern art and enters the world of narrative and multidisciplinary representation.
In fact, the exhibition is the tale of the discovery of the wreck of the ship Apistos (“unbelievable” in Ancient Greek) that was carrying treasures accumulated by the freed slave Aulus Calidius Amotan, known as Cif Amotan II, destined for a legendary temple dedicated to the Sun God. The theme and the content were kept hidden until a few months ago, when footage of the recovery of the wreck off the coast of Africa started to circulate. The exhibition features 189 objects carried by this vessel, found by archaeologists in 2008, the delicate recovery and restoration operations of which are said to have been financed by Hirst.
Exaggeration, hyperbole and suspension of disbelief pushed to its extreme limit, for “a global project in which the perception of the physical, material and tangible reality of the pieces exhibited takes place via narration, fiction and the desire to believe which is rooted in every human being” (Martin Bethenod, Director of Museums). Game, metaphor, creation of a myth, for an exhibition that is a theatrical mis-en-scene and a total artistic experience that teaches us that “It’s all about what you want to believe,” as Hirst himself tells us.
Photo courtesy Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable – Venezia, Palazzo Grassi e Punta della Dogana / © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/SIAE 2017.