Art on ice: Damien Hirst’s St Moritz lockdown project
Life and death have always been central themes in the works of British artist Damien Hirst. Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hirst has organised an exhibition of more than 40 of his works in the exclusive ski resort of St Moritz in eastern Switzerland.
Mental Escapology, which features giant sculptures as well as his better-known spot paintings and butterfly colour paintings, is Hirst’s first public exhibition in Switzerland. It is being held across five locations – indoors and outdoors – including two historical buildings: the neo-classical Forum Paracelsus and the Protestant Church in the town centre.
Hirst, a divisive trailblazer of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s, helped organise the exhibition by social media and phone from London.
“I’ve never been to St Moritz. But I know where everything is there. It’s like when I used to play Tomb Raider in the early days, and I went into a square in Venice and recognised it from the video game,” he told The Guardian.
Young British Artists
Young British Artists (YBAs) is the name given to a group of conceptual artists, painters, sculptors and installation artists, most (though not all) of whom attended Goldsmiths College in London.
The core of the YBAs originated in 1988, headed by Damien Hirst. A second wave of YBAs, which included Tracey Emin, appeared in 1992-3.
Most of the YBAs, now in their late 50s, are noted for shock tactics and use of throwaway materials. They achieved considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the 1990s.
Charles Saatchi, a major contemporary art collector and co-founder of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, became not only Hirst’s main collector but also the main sponsor for other YBAs.
Other YBAs include Sarah Lucas, the Chapman brothers, Marcus Harvey, Jay Jopling and Rachel Whiteread.
Highlights include three large-scale outdoor bronze sculptures: the four-metre The Monk (2014), with legs crossed in a yogic position, is the first work of art to be exhibited on the lake; Two Figures with a Drum (2013) has been installed on the south-western edge of the lake; and Temple (2008), a seven-metre painted sculpture depicting an anatomical model, can be seen at Waldhaus Am See.
Proteus (2012) depicts the shapeshifting sea god from Greek mythology and is located outside the Protestant Church.
Hirst’s website says the exhibition “engages with both the region’s spectacular landscape and the city’s most important civic spaces in which to show art, creating a dialogue between nature, the manmade, the contemporary and the historic”.
‘Mental Escapology’ is set to run in St Moritz and online until March 24.