this is the main reason why i went to london: to see the damien hirst show and yayoi kusama‘s retrospective.

we were told to make reservations first so we won’t need to wait in line to get our tickets so we did. we started by seeing for the love of god – 2007, hirst’s diamond skull displayed inside a small pavilion in the turbine hall.

the hirst show (4.04 – 9.09) opens with some early works, with dead head – 1991, some spot paintings  – cca. 1994 and medicine cabinets – cca. 1988.

a thousand years  – 1990 – is a comment on life and death (just as any other hirst piece): inside a glass display split in two, there’s one side where maggots hatch into flies and pass through a round cut out in the dividing wall, lured to their death by insect-o-cutor by the smell of a cow’s severed head on the floor. the life – death cycle is brief and comprehensive.

isolated elements swimming in the same direction for the purpose of understanding (left) and (right) – 1991 – show separately formaldehyde preserved fishes, all oriented towards the same direction.

away from the flock – 1994 – shows a single sheep in formaldehyde.

there is much more formaldehyde, but i imagine you kinda expected it, right?

next is probably hirst’s most famous piece: the impossibility of death in the mind of someone living – 1991: a 4m-long white shark suspended in liquid, with a cold grin the artist hoped was enough to make a living person feel the terror of an actual encounter.

lullaby, the seasons – 2002, a display cabinet lined with mirror multiplying the colourful pills along the shelves.

the acquired inability to escape – 1991 consists of an ashtray and cigarette butts and it refers to the chosen slavery of vice.

dead ends died out, examined – 1993, makes exhibits out of cigarette butts, where smoking a cigarette is a mini-life cycle.

in and out of love – 1991 is just like the viennese schmetterlinghaus: first, a room with the proper temperature and humidity levels for hosting live butterflies. they come to life from their cocoons and they fly around careless, feeding on fruit and landing on anything, visitors included. then, there’s another room where real butterfly wings are stuck on shiny colourful canvases. life-death, once again.

the spin paintings are made with household gloss paint. they are displayed on the turntables used for their making. in the same room, loving in a world of desire – 1996, is a giant hoovering beach ball.

another hirst hit is mother and child divided – 1993 – a cow and a calf cut in half, each part being displayed in a separate tank. for extra cringing, check out the unborn baby calf inside the cow.

doorways to the kingdom of heaven – 2007 – is one of the series with intricate patterns of butterfly wings resembling stained glass windows.

the anatomy of an angel – 2008 – shows a white marble statue of an angel with human organs partly exposed by a scientific section.

black sun – 2008, a round black piece where the colour is actually given by the miriard of dead flies that make the surface. yes, i also believe this is a smart way of recycling the flies who die for art in a thousand years.

judgement day – 2007 – is one of the gold and diamonds series: a gold cabinet filled with 30,000 carefully arranged man-made diamonds.

the last piece is the incomplete truth – 2006, a white dove suspended in formaldehyde.

going through this selection of damien’s body of work one can easily spot the recurrent themes and obsessions all of them asking questions about life and human conditions.

moving on: i wrote about yayoi kusama before and i have little to add.

the obliteration room was open to the public until march the 18th.

even if people get stuck on her dots, her body of work is wonderfully varied and she used various media and themes. i was blown away and spend a while in the dark mirror room, filled with the brilliance of life. wonderful!

the kusama show closes on june the 5th but it is a traveling show: the next stop is the whitney museum of american art in new york so you still have a chance (12.07 – 30.09)!

photo/video credits: google search