Sunday, April 4, 2010

Swimming with the Sharks. Damien Hirst's original shark.

I was reminded of this photograph recently, taken in 1992 (!) at Art Cologne. Yes, it's Damien Hirst's original tiger shark in formaldehyde, formally known as "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living". Have a close look - that's me taking the photograph (I'm dusting off that manual, brass-bodied camera again now), reflected in its vitrine. Ah, so young.

In case you're not familiar with Damien Hirst's famous fish in formaldehyde, fyi (& your secret of not knowing about this landmark art work is safe with me, unless of course you'd like to post a public comment about it), this is the iconic work of British art in the 1990s,[3] and the symbol of Britart worldwide.[4]Of course, having a good eye for talent, when I gazed through the vitrine into this dead, but immortalised fish's eyes - before all the hype - I knew even at first glance in 1992 there was something special about it. However, despite the formaldehyde, that specific fish was not long for this world. Damien Hirst had not yet perfected the formula. So this was a sort of experimental fish. Or a guinea pig. This from wikipedia about the fate of that poor shark (above), and its replacement. Did you know:

Because the shark was initially preserved poorly, it began to deteriorate and the surrounding liquid grew murky. Hirst attributes some of the decay to the fact that the Saatchi Gallery had added bleach to it.[7] In 1993 the gallery gutted the shark and stretched its skin over a fiberglass mold, and Hirst commented, "It didn’t look as frightening ... You could tell it wasn’t real. It had no weight."[7] When Hirst learned of Saatchi's impending sale of the work to Cohen, he offered to replace the shark, an operation which Cohen then funded, calling the expense "inconsequential" (the formaldehyde process alone cost around $100,000).[7] Another shark was caught off Queensland (a female aged about 25–30 years, equivalent to middle age) and shipped to Hirst in a 2 month journey.[7] Oliver Crimmen, a scientist and fish curator at London's Natural History Museum, assisted with the preservation of the new specimen in 2006.[7] This involved injecting formaldehyde into the body, as well as marinating it for two weeks in a bath of 7% formalin solution, consisting of water and dissolved formaldehyde gas.[7] The original 1991 vitrine was then used to house it.[7]

(No, neither did I).

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