With his current exhibition at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, Damien Hirst positions himself not only as a visual artist whose creativity blossoms in many ramifications but as an expert in story-telling

The concept is rooted in a real legend: the tale of Cif Amotan II, an emancipated slave of the Roman empire. His fortune made, he gathered his wealth amongst which an army of artworks and artefacts and loaded it on his boat the Apistos. The ship wrecked whilst sailing towards a temple where the collector intended to store his treasure. 

Damien Hirst, Demon with Bowl, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

In the show, it’s incredibly hard to tell the true from he fake : from the Demon with Bowl, an 18-metre high resin sculpture of a giant without a head, supposedly a copy of an original piece found onboard, to the wonderfully detailed documentaries, everything is larger than life.

Damien Hirst, Andromeda and the Sea Monster, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia
Damien Hirst, Andromeda and the Sea Monster, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

Next to hyper realistic piece, a seashell Mickey amongst other works sets the visitor thinking. Damien Hirst follows the logic endlessly with copies of fakes and fakes of fakes.

Damien Hirst, Mickey, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia
Damien Hirst, Mickey, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

A stroke of genius, the exhibition attracts growing crowds and has already become viral. DNA, indefinitely declinable codes, an element from the past, a glamorous character and the treasure hunt as a hook : all of the ingredients for success are aboard this ship. 

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Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, until December 3rd  2017  

Images © Araso and Mathieu Dochtermann