Damien Hirst: ‘Octa’, 2021 from the ‘Seascapes’ – oil on canvas, 122 x 183 cm
Do auction houses count as galleries? Not normally, perhaps, though they are often worth a look around. But Phillips, which has the sleekest and most modern premises of the major houses in London, has effectively let its space out to HENI as a gallery for a massive selling show of Damien Hirst (to 18 Aug – hurry along!). I can’t say it’s up to Phillips’ usual standard, but it is striking: hundreds of generally massive works testify to the scale of Hirst’s production and his commercial confidence – prices start from around $500,000. There are three types of painting: 168 ‘Coast Paintings’, for which he throws paint onto a grey ground, suggesting winter skies in a claimed approximation of aerial views of coastlines (not good); 64 ‘Sea Paintings’, which are photo-realistic studio productions of stormy black and white oceans (unoriginal and somewhat dull); and 64 ‘Seascapes’ – for which Hirst throws grey and white paint onto second versions of the realistic works.
Those last do convey spray in storms in a novel way, suggesting an abstract takeover of the landscape. Reducing the display by 90% to focus on the best of them might have been a good move, but the whole is more about commerce. I overheard one visitor tell his companion that he’d bought one of the preceding series of blossom paintings but had never seen it, as it had gone straight to storage; and that made some sense…
London’s gallery scene is varied, from small artist-run spaces to major institutions and everything in between. Each week, art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent gives a personal view of a space worth visiting.