Damien Hirst, the provocative British artist known for submerging animals in formaldehyde and adorning a human skull cast with diamonds, took a simpler approach when creating his newest series. As of yet unshown, The Secret Gardens Paintings will star in Gagosian’s booth at the upcoming edition of Frieze London.
The works depict vibrant greenery and florals in nature scenes dressed with hurled splatters of paint, which Hirst has described as producing a sensation of “pollen, or something that feels like an assault on the senses.” Assault might not always be an apt descriptor, however. In Garden of Hope, colorful paint splatters waft like floating petals and snippets of grass.
Through examining the relationship between humanity and environment, Hirst created paintings that “feel like the hope and futility we get when we try to control nature,” according to a statement from the artist. The botanical works draw parallels to his Cherry Blossoms, created from 2018 through 2020, which also combined flowers with splashes of paint.
The 20th anniversary of Frieze London opens this October, and this latest edition, which is expected to be the fair’s most international yet with 160 galleries from more than 40 countries, will also feature solo presentations selected by artists like Tracey Emin and Wolfgang Tillmans as part of a one-off project called “Artist-to-Artist.” Hirst has a lengthy history with Frieze, which launched in 1991 with frieze magazine. The publication’s debut issue included the first-ever published interview with Hirst and featured one of the artist’s butterfly paintings.
Hirst’s history with Gagosian
In 1996, Hirst experienced another first when Gagosian gallery held a solo show for the artist in New York. And in an unprecedented move in 2012, the gallery displayed more than 300 of Hirst’s well-known spot paintings, which consist of multi-colored and hand-painted spots against white backgrounds, in all 11 of its global locations. During the exhibition, Hirst gave out personalized and signed spot paintings to those who managed to visit every gallery. He has continued to experiment with the famed series and in October of 2022, Hirst incinerated 1,000 of his spot paintings on a livestream, giving owners who agreed to have their pieces destroyed a non-fungible token (NFT) in exchange.
The working relationship between Hirst and Gagosian hit a rocky patch in 2012 when the artist left the mega-gallery after 17 years. While neither party ever explained the split, the duo reunited in 2016, with Gagosian dedicating his Frieze New York booth to a show of Hirst’s work.
In the years following the stint apart, Larry Gagosian appears to have welcomed back the artist with open arms. In 2021, the art dealer handed over his London gallery space on Britannia Street to the artist, who for twelve months had free rein to stage shows of his own work and that of other artists. Meanwhile, Gagosian last year presented Natural History, the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Hirst’s formaldehyde works, which have most notably included the preservation of a fourteen-foot tiger shark. Surveying 20 of his pieces from the series since 1991, the show included animals like sheep, zebras and doves, some of which were bisected or flayed.