Damien Hirst exhibition in Venice: an (un)believable story


Last Updated on September 18, 2018 by Laura Teso

Stories and tales feed our mind and soul as food nourish our body. In this era of quickness, multiple images, videos and indifference, are will still able to stop for a while and pay attention to a story? I surely am, and that’s why I enjoyed my experience at Damien Hirst exhibition in Venice: Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. Just the title won me over.

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst is a British artist, well known for his provocative installations. I don’t know if you remember the shark or the disturbing cow… I didn’t particularly like those installations per se, but I reckon the ideas were brilliant. And he is also a sharp business man. Chapeau, Mr Hirst!

The locations

The exhibit is located in two different buildings.

  1. The first part is at Punta della Dogana (vaporetto n. 5.1 at the Train Station, off at Spirito Santo + 5 minutes walking). The Dogana is the white building that once hosted Venice’s customs. You probably know the triangular white building located where the Grand Canal merges with St. Mark’s Basin. You surely saw at least once the shiny statue representing the Fortune on a Golden Ball (aka World), supported by two Atlases. Well, there is the location of the first half of Hirst’s exibition (entrance next to the Salute Church). Thanks to French magnate François Pinault, the building was restored by architect Tadao Ando in 2009: static consolidation, acqua alta protection system, disabled access and usability device and facilities to preserve and protect the works of art.
    Arriving at Punta della Dogana
    Arriving at Punta della Dogana
  2. The second part is at Palazzo Grassi (15 minutes walk crossing the Canal Grande at the Accademia Bridge). The Palazzo, very sober, dates back to 1700s and overlooks the Grand Canal. Purchased by Fiat in the 80s to host visual arts exhibits, it was acquired by Pinault in 2006 for its personal collection.

Did you know that… Precisely at Palazzo Grassi Salma Hayek met Pinault’s son. Here they celebrated their wedding vows renewal.

Damien Hirst Exhibition in Venice
Damien Hirst Exhibition in Venice

The story behind Damien Hirst exhibition

This new story begins with a former slave called Cif Amotan. He got rich, who knows how. And he collected a lot of precious statues from different ages and civilizations. At some point he decided to sail to the East to build a temple for the Sun God. But the ship, called the Unbelievable, wrecked.

All the treasures stand under the water for ages. Until 2008 when they were discovered and recovered from the abyss.

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

The lovely Giulia, tour guide, invited me to join one of her visits. I immediately accepted cause I had read something about this exhibition and it intrigued me a lot.

If you expect a thorough review, I won’t do it. I don’t want to make spoilers because I believe in judging art without prejudices. But let me tell you something: if you’re “eminently practical” (Hard Times) this is probably not your thing. To really enjoy Damien Hirst exhibition you should be kind of dreamers, believers, romantic.

If you’re ready to believe in this story, you will find amazing sculptures, multiple cultural references (from the Metamorphosis by Ovid to Disneyland), irony, food for thoughts, in particular a reflection on the role and importance of art.

Moreover the works and the Venice locations are a perfect match. The treasures of an ancient ship in the most beautiful maritime city of the world.

The giant statues of seducing beauty at the beginning of the mostra (Italian for exhibit), the vivid colours of the corals, the surreal atmosphere, the constant invite to reflect created a bizarre and unique opus. I really liked it. And the photos of the retrieval? Amazing. They would be worth of a exhibition too.

Some pieces are breathtaking like the giant statue at Palazzo Grassi (inspired by William Blake’s Ghost of a Flea), others are more intimate like the tiny golden monkey. Others evocative like the jade Medusa (whose blood created coral, did you know?), or provocative like the Amazon and the Bear. But each one of them make you think.

Is this story unbelievable?

So is the story actually unbelievable? I think it’s not 😉
I think this “show” is well worth the 10 years the artist spent in creating it, and surely worth a visit. But you’ll have to find out and to judge for yourselves.

As an artist you’re looking for universal triggers. You want it both ways. You want it to have an immediate impact, and you want it to have deep meanings as well. I’m striving for both. But I hate it when people write things that sound like they’ve swallowed a f… dictionary. Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst exhibition in Venice Info

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

Until December 3rd 2017
Wed – Mon 10am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)
Ticket 18€
Closed on Tuesday
Free guided tours in Italian on Saturday (starting at 3pm at Punta della Dogana).
English guided tours by appointment
Punta della Dogana + Palazzo Grassi

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