The vertigo of Damien Hirst at the Borghese Gallery

ROME – Paolina Borghese looks at the ‘Five Nudes from Ancient Greece’ carved in pink marble. Behind him, five other female bodies, identical, but in bronze. Judith with the head of Holofernes, Giovanni Baglione’s masterpiece, is observed by the severed heads of a Medusa now malachite, now silver and gold. The marble cerberus that guards the Rape of Proserpina from below is doubled by two other examples in bronze and Carrara marble. It is a vertigo ‘Archeology now’, the exhibition event by Damien Hirst at the Borghese Gallery which will open to the public from tomorrow and will be open until 7 November. Eighty works from the ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ series – the great exhibition that invaded Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice in 2017 – are exhibited in all the rooms of the Roman museum in a continuous relationship with ancient art, in a a succession of imposing and small sculptures, all handmade with materials such as bronze, Carrara marble and Malachite.

The corals, rock crystals and semi-precious stones that Hirst uses to embellish his works play with the colors of the mosaics and stuccoes that adorn the Gallery, so much so that they sometimes create a contemporary treasure hunt, that of Hirst, who in the coming months will house among the masterpieces of classical statuary, Italian Renaissance painting and the most famous sculptures by Bernini and Canova. Other times, however, his works burst onto the scene in search of amazement. It happens for example in the entrance hall, where the great bronze diver stands out among the Roman statues, overlooking also two other great works of the English artist: the ‘Minotaur’ in black granite intent on tearing up a young woman and a large foot dominated by a rodent, which Hirst in his continuous references to a mythology halfway between the real and the fantastic called ‘Fragments of an Apollo’. Her ‘Archeology now’ is in fact a reference to the ancient world that continuously passes from a real plane to a more suggestive one. But if in Venice this narrative was the leitmotif of the exhibition, at the Borghese Gallery it “no longer serves”, explained Anna Coliva, former director of the Museum and together with Mario Codognato curator of the exhibition created with the support of Prada. “In Venice, what struck most together with the works was the narration, which together with the image are the pillar on which contemporaneity moves. Here there is none of this, the narration is no longer needed, the works emerge for their beauty, their strength, execution and materials. There is no need to create a fantasy, here the myth is created. The synthesis of these works is the creation of the myth“. So much so that at times Hirst’s works seem to have been created specifically for the Gallery. “It is extraordinary – Coliva said – when I imagined this exhibition I deeply thought that it was made for this place. If some of these works remained here, they would be absorbed into the collection. Surely, Scipione Borghese would have taken someone“.

ARCHAEOLOGY NOW_Damien Hirst_Galleria Borghese

Perhaps the Cardinal’s choice would have fallen on the ‘Sons of a deceased king’, a black granite sculpture that today surrounds Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne together with the painted bronze ‘Pair of slaves destined for execution’. Or even the precious bust of ‘Unidentified Pharaoh’ in blue granite and white agate. Or again, the series of Hermaphrodites who keep company with the ancient Roman statues of the collection or even the ‘Five friends’, among the most famous and colorful works of Hirst. “It is not about dialogue, but about tension. These works will give the opportunity to read, once again, the infinite possibilities of ancient works of art to survive their destiny as a historical document to be continually looked at, questioned and reworked. Our public is called to be part of a journey that goes beyond epochs, which touches the strings of emotion ”, said Francesca Cappelletti, director of the Borghese Gallery who today, together with the curators, welcomed the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini. “Hirst’s contemporary art at the Borghese Gallery is truly a great idea and a great innovation – said the minister – it is a proof of what will happen in the coming months. I think it is another symbol of the restart ”.

Sensational in its size, the colossal sculpture closes the exhibition ‘Hydra and Kali’, set up in the outdoor space of the Secret Garden of the Bird, while on the second floor of the Gallery there is also Color Space, a series of paintings by the artist in Italy for the first time.

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