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Eight works by the world-famous artist Damien Hirst donated to ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
From the opening of ARKEN's new Damien Hirst Room. From left: Jay Jopling, Director, White Cube, London, ARKEN's Director Christian Gether, Damien Hirst and donor Jytte Dresing. Photo: Lars Skaaning.

SKOVVEJ.-Thanks to an exceptionally generous donation by the Merla Art Foundation, London, of eight works by the world-famous artist Damien Hirst, ARKEN will now be home to a significant permanent collection of works by the British artist. The donation includes the artist’s largest “spot painting” to date. This is a donation that will benefit all Danes, since the works will now become part of the national heritage.

"Its amazing that my work has been so generously donated to ARKEN. It has always been important for me to have my work viewed by the public and now ARKEN and Mrs Dresing are making this happen in Denmark", siger Damien Hirst.

“Damien Hirst (1965) has been a special focus of the museum over the past number of years, and so it is with the greatest of pleasure that we receive this lavish donation of eight major works. We will now be able to dedicate one of the museum’s large-scale galleries to the work of this groundbreaking and outstanding artist. Without this amazing private donation, that would never have been possible,” ARKEN director Christian Gether says.

Skulls and Diamonds, Spots and Butterflies
Hirst first caused a stir on the international art scene in the1990s when he exhibited a tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991. This developed into the ‘Natural History’ series, encompassing cows in formaldehyde such as Mother and Child Divided,1993, and Away From the Flock,1994, that presented a lone sheep in formaldehyde. He shocked the art world again in 2007 when he created For the Love of God, 2007; a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with 8601 VVS to flawless pavé-set diamonds. Hirst is consistently ranked among the five greatest living artists in the world. Hirst is a deeply contemplative and aesthetically conscious artist whose work centres on the essential and universal issues of human existence. These themes are also the guiding principles that ARKEN applies to its collections policy.

Hirst often employs symbols of death and eternity in his works. One example of this is shown in a piece from ARKEN’s collection, notably the diamond-dust silk-screened image For the Love of God, The Diamond Skull. The print unites the memento mori symbol associated with death with a material that is thought to be inherently unchanging.

In addition to the spot painting the donation includes, The Four Elements (Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue), 2005. This is a 2.5 by 9 metre butterfly painting that can be viewed as a metaphor for the poetry of life and the symbol of the soul fluttering up to heaven. Carcinoma, 2007, is made from hundreds of thousands of dead flies set in resin to form a perfect circle, representing death and eternal harmony. , 2006, examines and magnifies cancerous cells and presents them to the viewer in the form of a large-scale painting encrusted with razor blades, glass and diamond dust, again exploiting notions of life and death that are conjured by the materials for the work. Beautiful B. painting,1996, is a ‘spin painting’ whose surface is determined by the technique of pouring paint onto a rotating canvas, highlighting the chance nature of beauty.

This is the most substantial overall donation to a Danish art museum since Johannes Rump donated his Matisse collection to the National Gallery of Denmark in 1928. As the donation includes the largest spot painting that Hirst has created to date, this becomes a significant addition to Danish cultural heritage. 2-Amino-5-Bromobenzotrifluoride, 2011, measures 4.57 by 14.32 metres and was made specifically for ARKEN’s spacious gallery, at the request of Jytte Dresing. To mark this exceptional donation, Damien Hirst and White Cube have loaned two key works to ARKEN for a year. One is Love's Paradox (Surrender or Autonomy, Separateness as a Precondition for Connection), 2007, where the forequarters of two cows are contained within separate aquariums of formaldehyde. The other is a 2.5 metre tall bronze statue of St Bartholomew. Entitled Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain, 2006, it shows the martyr with his own flayed skin slung over his arm like Jason and the Golden Fleece.

A Hirst Room at ARKEN
This collection of Hirst’s work was assembled over several years by Jytte Dresing, in dialogue with ARKEN’s director Christian Gether. The works will be displayed in ARKEN’s new Hirst Room, which will be entirely dedicated to the artist. In turn, visitors to the museum will now get a chance to partake in the fundamental reflections on existence that his artwork invites us to perform, which we hope will in turn draw international attention to the gallery and its collections.

The donation elegantly extends ARKEN’s special interest in Hirst, a focus that has already seen the museum publish a special issue of ARKEN Bulletin dedicated to his work, in 2009.

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