We spoke to our Curator, Peter Hall, about why having Damien Hirst in Woking is so important and what it was like to work on putting the exhibition together.
Why is it so special to have Damien Hirst on show at The Lightbox?
Damien Hirst is one of the most famous artists in the world and an instantly recognisable figure. His artwork is extremely thought-provoking, debate inducing and it comments succinctly on the status of art, science, mortality and religion. And because it has been a fantastic opportunity and experience working with an internationally renowned organisation in the British Council and their team as well as the Paul Stolper Gallery with whom The Lightbox has built up a really strong rapport and relationship. Apart from that, this particular collection is usually travelling the world with the British Council, so we are incredibly lucky to be able to show it in Surrey.
Is there a specific part of the New Religion piece that stands out to you most?
The Wounds of Christ. An enormous 4m high crucifix that is hung on the walls of the gallery and looms over the whole gallery and visitors to the exhibition.
This is a very different exhibition to previous Main Gallery shows such as ‘Renoir in Britian’ and ‘The Horse at War: 1914 – 1918’, in what way is it different to curate? What is the biggest challenge in putting together an exhibition like this?
The Renoir exhibition was very much a fine art exhibition, and we curated, hung the works and designed the layout of the exhibition in a very classical, elegant way. The Horse at War: 1914-1918 show was similar in that it had a strong fine art element to it but was more challenging as we had a historical display to mount and the Joey puppet, from the theatre production War Horse to integrate into the exhibition, as well as audio visual elements. With so many elements, we had to make sure the content was clearly laid out so the visitor experience was both enjoyable, digestible and informative.
Why do you think Damien Hirst attracts so much public interest?
Hirst was part of the YBAs (Young British Artists) who emerged from Goldsmith’s Art College in the late 1980s. They used everyday objects in their responses to contemporary life, exploring the world around them and their (and our) relationship to it. The public and the media in particular construed them as controversial artists, painting a picture of the group simply trying to shock and sensationalise in an attempt to garner attention. However, Hirst [as well as other YBAs] explores his themes and ideas in a manner that is extremely sensitive, highly meaningful and visually rich. Hirst and the YBAs achieved success, fame and attention from collectors and galleries from all over the world, and did much to improve the image and presence of the contemporary art scene in the UK at home and abroad.
Come and see for yourself and don’t forget to let us know what you think on Twitter! #DamienHirstTLB
Image credit: The Eucharist (2005), Courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015