This is a review of the Damien Hirst exhibition called “Treasures from the wreck of the unbelivable” at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice that I posted on Trip Advisor on 19th June 2017
‘Treasures from the wreck of the unbelievable’ is an amazing, irreverent and gauche exhibition. It is by turns both beautiful and ugly, meaningful and vaccuous. The perfect place for it is Venice. By placing this work there, Hirst is sticking two fingers up to the art establishment that revere Venice as the home of great art.
The premise of the exhibition is that an ancient ship has sunk with treasures from across the world. These treasures have now been excavated from the seabed by divers and are displayed with the customary descriptions from experts. On the way in you watch a ‘documentary’ about the raising of the artefacts in which a voice-over says things along the lines of “I’m not saying it is the truth, but there could be some truth in it”. The exhibits seem at first to be plausible but later you see encrusted statues of Mickey Mouse and Hirst himself. I enjoyed wondering what would come next and confess to occasionally laughing out loud.
However, despite enjoying the irony, the size of the imagination and the craft, I also felt frustrated by the nihilism. The exhibition seemed to me to say “Don’t believe anything” / “there is no truth” / “there are no experts”. These are mantras that we have heard in Trump’s USA or UK’s Brexit and personally they make me despair. If we don’t find meaning in things, if we cant see the difference between the price of something and its value, if we cant come to appreciation of our past, then how can we feel passionate about anything. If you see a Titian painting in a Venice church you can see passion and belief. It jumps out at you. For this reason it has been captivating people for hundreds of years. Art can be amusing, irreverent, challenging, but it can also be passionate.
So if you get a chance to go, do. It is certainly an exhibition that makes you think and laugh, but… maybe… also leaves you feeling a little empty.