July 2012

July 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

 Damien Hirst’s Butterfly room on display at the Tate Modern delights and amazes. The walls are lined with large white canvases on which, butterfly pupae are glued, ready to hatch. Emerging butterflies fly around the room landing on spectator’s shoulders, heads or arms. Individuals stand quietly as they anxiously signal a guard for the creature to be carefully removed.  The room is humid and the smell of rotting fruit and flowers engulfs the room. Feeding butterflies light on bowls of oranges and apples for a quick snack. I have always loved butterflies and have several collections of the beautiful creatures. My reaction to Hirst’s room evokes an entirely different response from the life cycle of a fly shown in the same exhibit. I am fascinated by the abandoned pupa still attached to the walls as rarely do you get to see those delicate chrysalises at close range. Naturally colored in cream, gold and pink – they deposit fluids that drip down the boards. Some visitors wonder if this is butterfly blood. The only thing missing from the exhibit was a magnifying glass, as I would have loved to look closer at the intricate detail of each species. Not only was there variation in size and color, some seemed to be carefully dotted with gold leaf and glistened in the light. Hirst's butterflies are common tropical species, such as the owl butterfly and the heliconius, a family of striking broad-winged butterflies. These are supplied by Natural History Museum's butterfly house, and are chosen for their colors, longevity. The Butterflies die after a couple days and are carefully collected for the next stage of their life, which is to be carefully applied to Hirst’s butterfly paintings. Is it cruel to have spent the few days in a room to eventually become part of a painting? That can be debated but we do know that Hirst's butterflies encourage us to reflect on how ephemeral life is for every insect – and even for their human spectators. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One thing is certain, you are not likely to leave a Damien Hirst exhibit feeling ambivalent, indifferent or lacking in an opinion about his work. The Tate Modern’s exhibition of Hirst’s work leaves you with a spectrum of emotions and opinions. As I walked through the exhibit, I felt both repulsed and delighted. I saw nature at it’s best and at it’s worst. The exhibit challenges the idea what is of art? It also has you asking is Damien Hirst a genius or hoax? Damien Steven Hirst is an English artist, entrepreneur and art collector. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists, who dominated the art scene in Britain during the 1990s. If you watched the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London you saw his work. Hirst produced a 5,600 square meter spin-painting version of the Union Jack, which became a giant dance floor for athletes and 80,000 spectators during the performances of Liam Gallagher from Oasis, the Spice Girls and Monty Python’s icon Eric Idle. Indeed, a spectacle of significant magnitude. Leading us to ask the question is he an artist or entertainer? One thing we can say, he is a very successful businessman.