Cristina Ruiz: The journey begins: London Britannia and Davies streets

Three hundred people, including yours truly, have registered to take part in the Hirst spot challenge according to the Gagosian Gallery.

Half-dot and up: smaller spot paintings at Gagosian Davies Street

The artist, however, probably won’t be joining us on this mega-trek ‘round all 11 international outposts. The Indian press is today reporting that Damien Hirst may be attending the India Art Fair in Delhi, which takes place for a week at the end of January.

Two stamps down, nine more to go!

My own spot journey begins at Gagosian’s Britannia Street gallery at 10am this morning. I finish the registration process, pick up my challenge card, get it stamped by gallery staff, and then the viewing begins.

There are 60 canvases here with spots ranging in size from 60 inches in diameter to just 3mm. One example from 1994, entitled Arginine Decarboxylase, sold at Christie’s in London for £881,250 last February, making it one of the more expensive spot paintings to sell at auction. To me it looks no different to the paintings on either side of it.

By the second room, the spot fatigue, and panic, start to set in. The paintings may all be different, some larger, some smaller, some round, some square, but essentially they all look the same. Row after row of two-dimensional coloured discs of identical size on white canvas. There’s no depth to the brushstrokes, no variation to the composition, just painting after painting of incessant glossy dots. What you see is literally what you get here. Which begs the question: what on earth am I going to blog about as I make my way aound another TEN galleries full of spots?

I turn to Gagosian director Stefan Ratibor for guidance. “Write about the globality of the challenge or how you react to the spots differently in each city,” he suggests. My panic rises.

Over in Davies Street, 28 small paintings, sometimes consisting of just half a spot, are on display. Here I learn that Elton John and his partner David Furnish are spot fans—they’ve loaned four works.

I return to Britannia Street, still searching for inspiration. Finally it arrives in the form of Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, who is leaving the show when I finally manage to corner him. He is beaming.

“I’m a really, really happy person having seen that,” he says. “It proves that these spot paintings are not a gimmick at all. They are part of an incredible system and they are a very serious exploration of what colour can do.”

Will he then join me on a global quest to see all the Gagosian spot paintings? “I don’t have time but I would like to see the early ones on show in New York.”

So, the meaning of the spot paintings may elude me but Chris Dercon gets them and, for now, that is enough for me.

Published Thu, 12 Jan 2012 23:38:00 GMT

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Cristina Ruiz

Over the next six weeks, Cristina Ruiz, our editor-at-large, has taken up the challenge to try to visit all 11 Gagosian galleries showing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. Follow her as she blogs about her travels here.