Sunday, October 16th 2016
Damien Hirst’s art gallery, Newport Street Gallery, has now been open for about a year and we decided to go and take a look at it. The building that the gallery inhabits was once used for creating theatre stage sets so there is plenty of space in which to exhibit large scale works.
You may also notice in the above photo the lettering ‘pharmacy 2’. This is the gallery’s restaurant which is tastefully decorated, as the name suggests, with mock shelves of drugs. It is the successor of another of Hirst’s restaurants, Pharmacy, in Notting Hill, which has closed down. We didn’t visit the restaurant so I can say nothing about it but, if you are interested, you will find plenty of reviews online.
The current exhibition is Jeff Koons: Now and today was the last day, so the place was pretty crowded. Admission was free and photography was allowed everywhere except in one room which contained examples of Koons’ sexually explicit paintings.
I will say at the outset that I am not a fan of Jeff Koons. He is hugely popular and his works sell for millions and he is for the foreseeable future a fixture in the art scene and in the histories of art. However, along with the mass of his enthusiastic followers, there is an insistent body of contrary opinion. It is with this that I align myself. I find Koons’s works vacuous and overblown. He strikes me as an artist-conjuror who produces effects to surprise and amuse his audience but nothing that has any profound meaning. I consider that he is, like Warhol, an illusionist who manages to convince some people that they are seeing more in his works than is actually there.
Art buffs may like to read this article by Jed Perl entitled The Cult of Jeff Koons. It refers to a Koons exhibition at the Whitney in New York but much of it is applicable to Koons and his work in general. Detractors of Koons will enjoy it; Koons fans will not. Koons’s Website is here and there is a Wikipedia entry on him here.
Below are some examples of what we saw. I present them without comment or annotations.
Our visit to the Newport Street Gallery was as much to make the acquaintance of the gallery as to see the works of Jeff Koons. The gallery forms a pleasant viewing environment and, despite the crowds, the staff on duty were friendly and welcoming. We will keep an eye on the gallery’s programme of exhibitions, keeping the possibility of future visits in mind.