Natural History is the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Damien Hirst's seminal work using formaldehyde, which features works spanning a thirty-year period and gathers many of these works together for the first time, also investigates more than 20 of the most iconic examples from 1991 to 2021, including chopped-up sharks, flayed innards, six-limbed cows, etc.
The artist's use of formaldehyde allows him to present visceral, often disturbing objects in a grim clinical style, applying minimalist formal installations to contemplation on life and death, fact and belief, with drooping sharks, gut-shaped sausages, skinned guts, six-limbed cattle, trash fish, upside-down sheep, and Hunterian Museum-esque tremor organs, experiencing the most astounding dioramas: The Beheading of John the Baptist (2006).
The heavy frame of sculptural tanks has been a feature of his works since the 1990s, such as A Hundred Years and A Thousand Years (both 1990). His glass cases are rooted in a fear of vulnerability, and the desire for isolation and protection that comes with it. Ultimately, however, instead of proposing formaldehyde as an effective medium for preserving objects and the ideas they convey, he concludes that the very idea of preservation is futile in the face of inevitable death. It's a clock looming above the execution scene in dangling reality.
Image Credit: @gagosian