Starting on February 2nd, my friend Matthew and I began a brief trip of three full days exploring Paris, with the intention of acquiring spot number six of the Damien Hirst Spot Challenge. It was 20 degrees, the sun was shining and our smiles were effectively frozen to our faces as we strolled into uncrowded museums (no line at the Louvre!) perpetually sustained by coffee, pastries, bread, cheese and wine. I hadn’t been to Paris in many years and was happy to once again experience her spectacular beauty along with the charming cobble stoned streets lined with sandstone buildings housing boulangeries, small bistros and antiques.
On day one, we walked all over the place. Notre Dame, St. Germaine, Latin Quarter, the Pantheon. Notre Dame still had Christmas going on with a droopy tree outside and a full nativity scene set up inside. Creepiest baby jesus I’ve ever seen…with a faux fur diaper (see photo below). Not at all what I expected.
On day two, after a requisite walk up the Champs Elysees to the Arc De Triumph, we made our way to the Gagosian Gallery on 4 Rue de Pontheiu. Due to my stellar map reading skills, this took longer than expected…but make it there, we did.
The Paris show is more subtle than the Chelsea or LA shows. It’s size and content are more akin to the Hong Kong exhibit. Most notable was Cupric Nitrate, 2007, an 81x83 inch work filled with a grid of one inch spots. Much like it’s larger compatriots in LA and Chelsea, this work beckons the viewer to step inside the grid, and be engulfed by the silent organization and cheerful indifference of the spots. Like visual Prozac, the effect is emotionally leveling and forces the viewer to surrender into a mental hum that is without limits. Depending on who you are, and what your state of mind is at the moment, this can be equally comforting or disturbing.
As I experience more of the Hirst spot paintings, I am continually struck by the three dimensional qualities they possess. When I was considering this, I had an epiphany that he’s a sculptor who paints. Imagine my surprise when I read an article where he states, “I started them as an endless series like a sculptural idea of a painter (myself). A scientific approach to painting similar to the drug companies’ scientific approach to life.” Prozac, indeed.