FREEDOM NOT GENIUS Works from Damien Hirst's collection
MAMM is pleased to present selected works from Damien Hirst’s private ‘Murderme’ collection, exhibited for the first time in Moscow and uniting works from Hirst’s British contemporaries with classics of Modernism and Pop Art, as well as unique curios collected by Hirst. As one of the most popular and groundbreaking artists of our time, Hirst has been active for over the last two decades on the international art scene. For this exhibition he appears as Damien Hirst the collector, revealing the sources of his inspiration, passions and tastes.
Damien Hirst’s attraction to artists who share his passions and anxieties has resulted in a conspicuously personal and idiosyncratic collection.. After trading works with his British contemporaries in the late 1980s, he has gone on to acquire some of the most significant works belonging to those artists who collectively came to be known as the YBAs. His collection has also grown to include works by many international artists of earlier generations: not only post-war masters like Bacon and Giacometti, but pivotal figures in the history of 20th-century art, such as Richard Hamilton, Mario Merz, Bruce Nauman, Richard Prince and Kurt Schwitters The combination of the quotidian with the sublime, a familiar characteristic of Hirst’s own work, is also a significant element of the Murderme collection. Two themes recur frequently — memento mori and the animal kingdom — and together they communicate the spirit of the entire collection, a combination of contemporary masterpieces and works of another kind: unique, unusual objets d’art that fascinate and at the same time intimidate — unexpected and surprising works.
The theme of death remains a central preoccupation for him as an artist, and so it is only fitting that one of the rooms in the exhibition has been dedicated to his vast collection of memento mori. In a sort of contemporary Wunderkammer, viewers can admire amongst others a still-life by Pablo Picasso, a Takashi Murakami painting, 17th- and 18th-century vanitas paintings, as well as reinterpretations of the same theme by contemporary artists such as Peter Blake, Sarah Lucas and Vik Muniz.
These reminders of our own mortality are counterbalanced elsewhere in the collection by a copious explosion of life: the animal world with its millions of species and the extraordinary variety offered by nature. Drawing inspiration from the Renaissance cabinets de curiosites (intimate and private spaces for the collector but also workshops for scientific research), ’Freedom Not Genius’ is crowded with stuffed animals from various periods; anatomical studies and bronze casts; an 18th-century plaster cast of a horse’s leg; drawings of African mammals; and more recent works by artists such as Banksy, Marcus Harvey, Michael Joo, Sean Landers and Colin Lowe, recreating the imaginary animal world that attracts Hirst the collector.