Wandered along to the Damian Hirst extravaganza at the Tate Modern over the weekend and was predictably unenthused. To me it was a perfect place to take a few youngsters and pretend that they have experienced some sort of culture. Hirst’s oeuvre is in the main flash-bang, the drip-spin, spotted, gore and utensil work appeals to the superficial, the fashionable and the childish.
So in terms of my plan it was a result. However one particular exhibit really got my goat, and it wasn’t so much the object itself but the curating of it that rankled. That Mr Hirst was able to find someone foolish enough to allow him to corrugate a skull with a pound or two of cut diamonds is neither here nor there. It is marginally interesting as an idea and has something about it. But the way that the object is set is extraordinary in itself.
One small object, less than a foot square (indeed human head sized) is allowed to take up the entire space in the cavernous Turbine Hall.
In the vast and deliberately darkened void looms a small black building, picked out with soft lights. It sits, discreet and self-important. A couple of ostentatious (armed) security guards loiter with intent. One is ushered round the back, out of sight where a terminus style queue worms itself packed and invisible in the shade. The queue is strictly controlled and lengthened by what appears to be a deliberate policy of delaying entry into the inner sanctum. The slower people are allowed to pass through, the greater the queue, the greater the ‘experience’ the greater the awe.
Finally one is allowed to enter a pitch-black room and there is the Aztec bling, picked out by a dozen pin-prick spots.
It struck me, that what was happening was an attempt, by a taxpayer funded body,
to grant this small object some form of secular divinity. The pomp and circumstance, the whole theatrical performance designed to create a denationalised crown jewel.
It left a distinctly deflated feeling. The children? They were antagonised and bored by the queue, didn’t understand what the fuss was about.