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Damien Hirst At The Mfa, Boston

1228 words - 5 pages

It appears these past few months the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has been more concerned with high profile exhibits, rather than showing art. The Ralph Lauren car collection has undeniable mass appeal, and it is clear that this is partially the reason for it being on display. The same goes for the "Rockwell and the Red Socks" exhibit that conveniently opened with the beginning of baseball season for the World Series champs. The motivation for the Damien Hirst show, "A selection of works by Damien Hirst from Various Collections", however, is less apparent. It seems the MFA wanted someone who has a high-status in the art world, and who better than the most famous living British artist Damien Hirst. Although, attached with the name Damien Hirst-- undoubtedly comes controversy. The MFA boasts Hirst's celebrity artist profile in the write-up about the show, calling him one of "the most influential living artists". The text, which describes his career since the 90's, appears in the brochure and also in the entry way of the Foster gallery where most of his work is displayed. In addition, accompanying all his pieces are short explanations with quotes directly from the artist. For the people who are unfamiliar with Hirst's work, the wall labels serve to instruct and "fill in" the viewer. However, in an attempt to do this, the wall labels end up reducing the art to single and easy-to-grasp concepts such as death or beauty. Due to the extremely instructional nature of the labels, which explicitly explain the piece and artist's "intention", there is little room for the viewer to construct their own opinions. What adds to the instructive nature of the text is the sense that it is defending the work and the artist himself. Essentially the work is meant to shock or intrigue, while the writing seems to clarify and defend. For example, Away from the Flock which is positioned directly in front of the entrance is supposed to shock the viewer. Intrigued--or disgusted- the viewer reads the paragraph that states Hirst did not kill the sheep, and that it is a piece about religion. The viewer is instantly appeased, and moves on, eager to read the next paragraph. Each paragraph explanation is makes Hirst seem more and more like a sensitive thinker type and it seems people are more intrigued with his image than his work. There should have been more focus on his art, rather than him. In the large opening wall label it states: "His materials are sometimes repellant, but his themes--the human condition, mortality, and beauty--are timeless and familiar throughout art history. Hirst has characterized himself as 'romantic' and 'kind of old-fashioned... in terms of ideas.'" It seems the MFA is uncomfortable with Hirst's work and tries to tone it down wherever they can--needing to explain every piece and adding in quotes form the artist to make him and his work more likeable. When attention is averted from the wall labels, and focused on the art, the pattern...

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