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September 27, 2009 Art Thoughts No Comments
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (source: http://tinyurl.com/ycjmxaw)

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (source: http://tinyurl.com/ycjmxaw)

If you are not familiar with Damien Hirst’s conceptual piece, “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”,  here’s the scoop:  In 1991, Charles Saatchi commissions British artist Hirst to create whatever he wants.  Hirst decides to formaldehyde a shark and then place that shark in a tank filled with formaldehyde.  A whole lot of formaldehyde later, “The Physical Impossibility…” is created.  In 2004 Saatchi sells the work for eight million dollars to Steven A. Cohen who, in turn, lends the piece to The Metropolitan Museum of art until 2010.

Fast forward to the future.  My husband John and I walk into a Montreal art gallery where we familiarize ourselves with an artist called Dominique Gaucher.   Lo and behold – one of Gaucher’s paintings depicts Hirst’s shark at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Entitled “Showpiece”, the background is dominated by Hirst’s shark while the foreground is dominated by an encroaching mass of sea water.   In effect, Gaucher’s “Showpiece” brilliantly reverses the process that went into the creation of “The Physical Impossibility…” – instead of art extracting its subject from nature, nature  reclaims its subject from art.

Showpiece. (Source: artnet.com)

Showpiece. (Source: artnet.com)

Unfortunately, “Showpiece” was sold and therefore unavailable.  Solution?  Commission Gaucher to create another version.    In our 6 x 6 version, the shark and its tank (which rests on an embankment of sand) are at the forefront of the painting.  The background is dominated by the oncoming sea.

John and I each have the mock up of our painting (it’s not yet finished) on our phones.  Like giddy new parents we proudly show our friends.

Their reaction?   Are you seriously putting that in your home?  Maybe you shouldn’t make it the first thing one sees when they walk in and whatever you do, don’t put it in your dining room!  So what kind of art should enter your home anyway?  Obviously, you should love your art but, and this is a big BUT, is love honestly enough?  If you were buying one or two paintings then yes, it is enough, but what if you begin the slow and alluring road towards becoming a collector?

Art should be like a great book.  You finish it, you put it down, and yet it stays with you.  It makes you question what you hadn’t questioned before, it makes you “re-see” your surroundings.

Ponder the “what kind of art…”question if you want.  In the meantime, John and I look forward to welcoming our blood-thirsty shark!  Where will it go?  Our living room of course where it will boldly glare at our wine-sipping guests or our kids while they attempt to snuggle on the couch with a good, thought-provoking book – okay maybe I’m stretching the part about thought-provoking, but what better companion than an open-mouthed shark for the reading of the Twilight series!


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