Dare to wreck a context like Damien Hirst

In Damien Hirst’s new expo, everything is false and everything is true depending on how you look at it. ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ leaves the spectator in a state of wonder. Hirst flawlessly reconstructs a history without a past creating 189 sculptures supposedly lost in a legendary shipwreck and raised from the bottom of the Indian Ocean. It is all about context as this history has no past.

Spoofy context

The Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana host the exhibition of 5000 m2. It is the largest exhibition to date for a solo expo. Damien spoofs context by creating this fairy-tale world, a hedonist Hirst myth. It makes us wonder about value, beliefs, meaning. How do you take something like this in?

No clarity

As people always look for content in context, this work might be upsetting to some.  It doesn’t  offer any clarity combined with proper backgrounds, recent- and historical facts. It is bold, extravagant and very much mimicking present day. Context by design is something of the now, whether we like it or not.


Critics have called Hirst a populist more than once. I guess everyone of us is, as soon as we start to determine our own context and selling it as truth. Sure that is dangerous, history has shown us the worst examples possible.

Stop and wonder!

So the responsibility is ours. We should stop and wonder more often; could this be true? Ask more critical questions about content in context and make sure to test the water for maximum credibility.

Disrupt for thought

Creating and reframing context “Hirst style” is the work of a magician and a spin-doctor. Moulding something that has never existed to present day, putting it into an ancient, historical perspective. Damien gets people disrupted, and he should, as art should make us stop and wonder, could it be true?

Love it, well done Damien.


About marilijn

Marilijn Boumeester is a strategist assisting companies with a strong brand ambition to develop and implement a clearly framed strategy and adjacent storyline. Focus on client engagements in the remit of brand positioning/repositioning, innovation strategy, brand architecture and portfolio strategy.

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