The Wallace Collection

Exhibitions & Displays

No Love Lost, Blue Paintings by Damien Hirst

Wednesday 14th October, 2009 - Sunday 24th January, 2010

Price: Admission Free

The Wallace Collection is delighted to be hosting an exhibition of 25 new paintings by Damien Hirst, including two triptychs, showing in the UK for the first time. 

The paintings created between 2006 and 2008, marks the artist’s return to the solitary practice of painting. Since the start of his career, Hirst has challenged what it means to be an artist. ‘No Love Lost’ bears witness to a bold new direction in his work: a series of paintings that, in the artist’s words are “deeply connected to the past.” Their exhibition at the Wallace Collection, arguably the most intimate national museum in the world, is significant. In contrast to the white walls of a contemporary gallery, Hirst has opted to present these works in a classical environment, in the context of Old Master paintings in the great European tradition. His works engage in a dramatic visual dialogue with the works of art displayed in the adjacent sumptuous rooms.

No Love Lost, Blue Paintings by Damien Hirst

Press clippings and media for this exhibition.

The art critics ripped into Damien Hirst’s new show at the Wallace Collection as if his notorious sharks in formaldehyde had escaped their elegant glass prisons and were determined to wreak bloody revenge on their creator.

It was, of course, many of these selfsame critics who helped boost Hirst’s reputation to the point where a sale of his work at Sotheby’s last September took almost a hundred million quid even as the world economy was collapsing.

Critics, by and large, are far from wealthy. Was it jealousy that goaded them to such loathing, the festering sense that, having backed a maverick, he had now become richer and more famous than they would ever be? Or was it simply the tall poppy syndrome, so much a part of the British character, which insists on cutting down to size anyone who appears to be getting above himself?

I thought I’d better go and look at the 25 new paintings, which, unlike Hirst’s earlier output, are all his own work. They turn out to be nothing like as bad as almost everyone has said, and they make a striking contrast with the old masters displayed elsewhere in this sumptuous gallery.

No, you can’t compare Hirst’s rather scratchy paintings of skulls, lemons, reptiles, cigarettes and ashtrays with the bravura of Rubens or Frans Hals on show nearby, and it is hard to resist the notion that Hals’s Laughing Cavalier is having a good smirk at Hirst’s technical shortcomings. But the paintings sit well on the walls of the Wallace Collection, and bring in a blast of bracing fresh air.

They also confirm that Hirst, like Webster, is a man much possessed by death, who sees the skull beneath the skin. His revival of the memento mori strikes me as healthy in an age when most of us prefer to forget we are going to die.

I spoke to one of the attendants and told him that, despite the venomous reviews, I rather liked the paintings. He said he did, too, and added that they were bringing people, many of them young, to the Wallace Collection for the first time, and that, after looking at Hirst’s work, they continued to explore elsewhere.

I hope Hirst will keep his nerve and continue to paint. For a conceptual artist to turn to figurative painting strikes me as an act of courage – and, though these paintings are far from perfect, they are full of promise and individuality. Twenty-five years from now I suspect he will be regarded as one of the grand old men of British art, and that this xhibition will be viewed as a significant turning point in his career.

Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 16 Nov 2009

“His words and works are more honest, there’s no marketing, no spin. He’s still finding his way, doing what jazz musicians call ‘woodshedding’, meaning to hone one’s skills or pay dues through sustained practice [sic] but is starting to hit his painterly stride, or ‘winning the image’, as he calls it, especially in the sentinel-like figures of Guardian I and Guardian II (both 2008). Let’s hope practice never makes him too perfect again.”

Ossian Ward, Art Review, Oct 2009.

Damien Hirst is currently featured at the Wallace Collection in London, with his new exhibition “No Love Lost, Blue Paintings”. I’ve never been to the Wallace Collection and being a fan of Damien Hirst, I dragged Sarah along to visit on Saturday.

The Wallace Collection is a museum in an old London town house, a stone’s throw from Oxford Street. It displays mainly 17th-19th century French Renaissance art and ceramics, but the most famous piece is probably The Laughing Cavalier. I found it compelling then, to see Damien Hirst, the bad boy of Brit Art, exhibiting his latest work in such opulent surroundings.

I particularly enjoyed the way that the pieces were totally out of context with the rooms in which they were housed, a grandly understated pair of open spaces which were not as obvious a sign of the grandeur throughout the rest of the building. The pieces themselves, dark and brooding, seem to me to be bringing into question the nature of death and the way that the everyday consumerables that we feast ourselves on, eventually lead to our demise. Faint lines between skulls and inanimate objects seem to justify this supposition.

I highly recommend taking an hour or two to wander round the Wallace Collection, and then focus on Damien Hirst’s exhibition – it is a great mix of two opposite styles of art, process and thought. The collection is free, and the show runs until January 24th 2010.

Matt Churchill's blog, October 26, 2009

“The effect is, initially, dazzling. Hirst has lined the walls of two long galleries with striped, blue, silk wallpaper, commissioned at his own expense from the same French factory that makes the paper for all the Wallace’s walls – and which was, incidentally, beloved by Marie Antoinette. On this sumptuous surface he has hung 25 blue-hued paintings. The dominant tone is deep Prussian blue, almost black, and out of many of the densely worked surfaces, white skulls loom. The collision between sumptuous luxury and intimations of mortality plays on a familiar Hirst theme , a dark chiming note reinforced by the fact that you can glimpse Poussin’s magnificent Dance to the Music of Time through the door at the end of the gallery.” 

“That dichotomy, the contrasts between dark and light, the skull that gleams down the length of the gallery, the flayed body emerging from a suggestive forest, work well when you view the paintings as an installation, a continuation of the sharply clever commentaries on life, death and art with which Hirst has made his name.” 

“There’s pleasure in the way the paint is handled, experimentation in the variety of techniques. A huge painting of roses in a vase, surrounded by delicately stencilled butterflies, towards the end of the gallery, is full of life, with vigorously scratched circles in the paint converying the impression of petals. Next to it, another skull is almost obscured by heavy globules of white paint that recall the flashing lights glistening from the diamond encrusted skull For the Love of God that Hirst sold for £50 million.”

Sarah Crompton’s article in The Daily Telegraph, 14 October 20

When I walk into the Wallace Collection (it is one of my favourite museums in London) a sense of calm passes over me, my pace slows, and I take a deep breath. It is one of the most tranquil experiences to walk around the creaky London townhouse, chock-a-block full of 18th and 19th century paintings, sculptures, clocks, furniture, tea sets, ornate mirrors, and every other decorative object imaginable. For any art history buff, it is an absolute treasure trove.

b-uncut (art) blog, December 15, 2009