Gagosian Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures is an exhibition of rarely seen works by Damien Hirst created between 1993 and 2021.
The exhibition marks the first phase of Hirst’s yearlong takeover of the Britannia Street gallery, and is his first in the
space since The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011 in 2012. Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures sees Hirst as both
artist and curator, presenting this deeply personal series of work through his own eyes.Throughout his storied career, Hirst has confronted the systems of belief that define human existence, from common trust in medicine to the seduction of consumerism.
At a moment when the idea of “truth” has never been more tenuous, Hirst’s Fact Paintings and Sculptures question the obduracy of “fact” as a governing principle of society. Mimicking color photographs, the Fact Paintings are rendered in oil on canvas, sometimes with meticulous fidelity, at others reveling in the physicality of mark making. Their verisimilitude recalls the historical role of painting as a tool to represent the visible world and lead the viewer to believe that a two-dimensional image is, in fact, the three-dimensional object it portrays.
With the birth of photography in the nineteenth century, painting’s relationship with reality continued to evolve. Hirst’s Fact Paintings explore this back and forth between the brush and the camera as the agents of “truth.”The first exhibition of the Fact series, The Elusive Truth, was presented at Gagosian New York in 2005 and focused on paintings derived from newspaper photographs.
“Hirst’s Fact paintings and sculptures might be a play on what’s real and what’s not, as befits our age, but a lot of the time they just look tired and lacking in any urgency. FACT.” – The Guardian
Other subjects include Hirst’s signature motifs of butterflies and diamonds, depictions of his own previous works, and portraits of his friends and family. In many ways, the Fact series can be seen as the artist’s self-portrait, highlighting significant moments of Hirst’s life and career: Michael with Diamond Skull (2008), for example, portrays Michael Craig-Martin—his former tutor at Goldsmiths—posing with the famed sculpture For the Love of God (2007); in Self-Portrait as Surgeon (2007) the artist, dressed in blue scrubs, stands next to a hospital bed; and Cleaning New Baby (Cyrus) (2007) depicts his own newborn son.In the Fact Sculptures, presented alongside the related paintings, Hirst moves beyond the readymade, instead constructing detailed replicas of real objects.
In Love Dies Fast (2020) and Station (2014), physical elements of workshops and storage spaces appear, while in
Snob (2006–20) and Public School Tosser (2006–20) he makes reference to his own iconic jewelry cabinets, wryly
juxtaposed here with garbage bags and cans. Other sculptures attest to Hirst’s preoccupation with the order of things, their preservation and display: in Persil (2015) and Coke/Diet Coke Vending Machine (2007), a stacked pallet and a vending machine underscore the significance of consumer goods and product packaging, the high with the low. Some of the sculptures on view are charged with relevance to our lived experience in the COVID-19 era. Remedies Against the Great Infection (2020) offers hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, while sculptures such as Don’t Stop Me Now (2006) and Warsaw (2008), replete with medical supplies, take on new meaning within the context of the enduring pandemic.
By incorporating these by-now-ubiquitous commodities into sculptures, Damien Hirst speaks to the new landscape of material culture that has become a dark fact of contemporary life.