At his best, the uber-famous British contemporary artist Damien Hirst is capable of provoking deep emotional responses from his audience. Even when he’s a bit off his game or pushing too hard, there’s usually an element of his work that conjures a smile, like the chapel he designed in Provence, France that features a spire shaped like an arm pointing towards God. Subtle! Hirst’s relentless ambition is also part of what makes him interesting, and in 2017, he debuted Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, a 190-work exhibition featuring objects culled from a fictional ancient shipwreck. Now, The Art Newspaper is reporting that Treasures will get a second life this year by being shown at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.
True to the hubristic importance that Hirst projects, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is planned to be displayed alongside works by luminaries such as Caravaggio, Titian and Bernini; these artists are already featured in the Galleria Borghese’s permanent collection. Why this particular planned exhibition matters is because when Treasures first arrived on the arts scene in 2017, it was understood to be a grandiose and audacious exercise in trolling that critics either loved or reviled.
Specifically, Hirst also invented a fictional collector named Cif Amotan II, a freed slave, who was responsible for compiling the “found treasures” that of course Hirst himself had actually created. These items included huge sculptures covered in coral, coins, weapons and ancient calendars that appear to come from several different cultures. It was a project that was undeniably kitschy and which dealt heavily in the repetition of themes of luxury, myth and the seduction that comes with a good story. The fact that the exhibition is being re-shown certainly speaks to some sort of staying power, but it’s unclear what exactly that power consists of. At the very least, it’s good for a laugh.