Contemporary art Austria

Hirst and Baselitz joint show cancelled

Both artists were unhappy with an exhibition concept pairing their work, and are to show in separate rooms instead

vienna. Damien Hirst and Georg Baselitz have withdrawn from a planned exhibition, provisionally titled “Strange Friends”, at the Albertina museum in Vienna. The original concept, developed by director Klaus Albrecht Schröder, was to present a show of works by artists who collect each other. Instead, the Albertina will present works by the two artists in a new installation within the permanent collection, each displayed in separate, physically unrelated rooms.

Schröder developed the original concept for “Strange Friends” last year, when Baselitz asked whether he would be interested in displaying Hirst’s installation Contemplating a Self-portrait as a Pharmacist, 1996, which he was in the process of acquiring.

Baselitz has long collected contemporary art, but he sold most of the pieces when he moved in 2006 from his castle at Derneburg to smaller properties in Munich and the Italian resort of Imperia. Hirst remains one of his favourite artists, so Baselitz kept some of the works. However, Contemplating a Self-portrait as a Pharmacist is more than three metres long and two metres high, so it would be difficult to install in any of his homes.

Schröder then discovered that Hirst also owns works by Baselitz, and that the two artists have met several times in the past couple of years. This was the germ of “Strange Friends” because the two artists are a generation apart, work in very different styles and do not speak each other’s language. The show would have included two 2002 spin paintings by Hirst, Con­centric Lipstick Berry Painting and Gorgeous Concentric Sunny Yellow Line Painting, as well as four large “Remix” pictures made by Baselitz in 2007-08.

Schröder has known Baselitz for more than a decade, but only met Hirst last year. Their planning meeting was at Hirst’s country home in June 2009, but just as they got down to serious discussions there was a call with news of the Albertina’s flooded storeroom, and Schröder had to rush back (The Art Newspaper, September 2009, p18). They met again in the autumn at the artist’s London residence.

However, it has now emerged that Hirst and Baselitz are both unhappy with the concept of a special exhibition. As Schröder explained: “They don’t feel comfortable being shown as part of a pair. So what we will be doing is installing separate ‘artist rooms’. With old masters, you can do what you want, but with living artists you have discussions. It turns out my idea was not the best solution.”

When the Albertina’s new display opens in May 2011 it is expected that Hirst and Baselitz may make an exchange of works between each other. Under an unusual arrangement, they may then loan these works to the Albertina, for a 20-year period. In return, the Vienna museum would be committed to display them for at least six months every year. The arrangements are still under discussion between the two artists, and an announcement on the exchange is expected at the opening.

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