So I just finished watching Damien Hirst’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable on Netflix, or should I say I almost finished. I have 12 minutes left but the little red circle started spiraling away and told me to come back later. I think I’m good. I have entertained this ( bare with me while I find the right word) delusion – no that’s not it, lie- no, farce – maybe (…..anyway it will come to me) for long enough. This particular moving picture show is engineered to perpetuate the whimsical false narrative of an art exhibit that has completely lost the plot. Damien Hirst tried to mine the rich territory of the space between myth and fact, artifice and commerce and material culture and world-building but instead he delivered a glut of over-priced, over-sized and over-blown barnacle encrusted knock-off He-Man statues.
The film never addresses the actual specs of the exhibit. It was put on in two pavilions in the lovely setting of Venice. Apparently it took 10 years to fabricate and cost somewhere in the ballpark of 60 million dollars to produce. Hundreds of hours and assistants toiled over close to 200 pieces. The discerning art collector has their choice of three models to choose from for each piece. With or without coral along with a smaller dainty version in all manner of materials- gold etc… I guess the film is just a fancy commercial that stresses that we should all be aware of the vast amount of resources and effort devoted to this project. It also stresses how far over produced lazy conceptual art can masquerade the idea the emperor has no clothes.
The only piece I could find in the exhibit that I liked was this one. It caters to my lizard brain in the sense of beauty for beauty’s sake and the gold and the bronze play really well together. The best part of Damien Hirst’s work are his titles but in this case they do little to add to the pieces and are rendered impotent. Am I being too harsh- maybe, but the film painfully pointed out what could have been an engaging idea and squandered it. You feel sorry for the actors trying to sell shlocky bobbles all the while adding the odd wink to the artist. Perhaps a better title for this film could be A 20 000th of a League Under the Sea ……. because you know, it’s so shallow.
Maybe that’s the word I was looking for earlier.