Damien Hirst Is Riding the Wave of ‘90s Nostalgia by Curating a Sweeping Homage to His Own Early Work at His London Gallery This Month

'End of a Century' promises sharks, spots, pills, and a tank of medical waste.

Damien Hirst. ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

With all the shameless self-branding, ostentatious installation, and market madness that have defined his late-career work, it’s easy to forget that Damien Hirst was once seen as a fresh, cutting-edge “Young British Artist.” 

Next week, the YBA figurehead will attempt to remind us of this himself with a robust presentation of works from the first two decades of his output. And, in typical Hirst fashion, he’s doing it on his terms, hosting the exhibition at his own personal gallery. 

Going on view at Newport Street Gallery in London is “End of a Century,”’ a show of 50-some artworks from the 1980s and ‘90s, many of which belong to his best-known series. It’s the artist’s first solo show at the exhibition space, which he founded in 2015 to show off his personal art collection.

The show takes us back to a time when “Cool Britannia” was a buzzword, Oasis and the Spice Girls ruled the music charts, and a shark suspended in formaldehyde could still thrill and shock the public.

“Showing my works from the 90s and before, so long ago!,” Hirst wrote on Instagram, accompanied by pictures of his 20-foot-tall sculpture of an anatomical model, Hymn (1999-05), being hosted into the gallery by crane. “Makes me feel old—last century?”

Early spot paintings, sharks suspended in formaldehyde, and college-era collages from found materials will be among the greatest hits on display. So, too, will be rarely-seen works such as Prototype for Infinity (1998), an installation of thousands of painted pills from his “Pill Cabinets” series, and Waster (1997), a vitrine filled with medical waste. 

Damien Hirst, <i>Waster</i> (1997). Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates. ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Damien Hirst, Waster (1997). Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates. ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

With the exception of a few private loans, most of the artworks belong to Hirst himself, according to The Art Newspaper. Technically none of them will be on sale. 

The show, set to October 7 through March 21, 2021, will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue. Entry to the exhibition is free but you have to book a timed ticket slot in advance. 

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