Hirst, First.

The formaldehyde-cooler subject of today has been the Damien Hirst retrospective exhibition and its introduction to the world via the unusual medium of Channel 4. Inevitably, the usual debates about Hirst’s work championed by suspicious tabloids are still reigning supreme, but regardless of this or your opinions of the artist himself, there’s no doubt this will be an extremely spectacular show.

In this instance, such a giant occasion of a show is also proving to be a great opportunity to experiment with new methods of engaging an audience with a gallery. WIthin the art world, recent explorations to technology have felt rather gimmicky (Google Art Project), but some are emerging which feel natural and truly embrace change (The Royal Academy dedicating a room to iPad drawings by David Hockney). The Hirst exhibition doesn’t open until the end of the week, but has already been brought to us via a multitude of platforms from the Channel 4 special to the online tour narrated by Noel Fielding (Noel Fielding?) Yes, Noel Fielding.

The online tour works surprisingly well. Noel Fielding is endearing and casual; its like going around with your well informed friend who wants to show you all the things he’s excited about. The tour can be interacted with while video footage of Fielding plays, which means we can follow and watch our narrator, or zoom in to concentrate on the work, or the awkward gallery assistants shuffling in the background.

Of course, it is strange engaging with these often intricate or overwhelming pieces through tiny screens. It can never be truly comparable with the full gallery experience, but in the end, making this exhibition so accessible can only be a good thing. The informality of the delivery and the large exposure may encourage new visitors to visit and appreciate the show in their own way.

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