Damien Hirst knows a canny marketing opportunity when he sees one—hence his plan to show his Cherry Blossom paintings in Japan during the country’s wildly anticipated cherry blossom season.
The series of works will go on show this spring at the National Art Center, Tokyo (2 March-23 May) when the institution will be surrounded by cherry blossoms during part of the exhibition run. The show, billed as the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Japan, launched at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris last July.
Last summer, we reported that “the exuberant works draw on the colours of Pierre Bonnard, the gestural style of Abstract Expressionism and pointillist techniques”. Later in the year, the artist drew criticism after laying off 63 people in one of his studios October 2020 while claiming £15m in emergency Covid-19 loans from the UK government, as well as using the furlough scheme.
Hirst says he worked on the pictures for three years, completing the series of 107 paintings in November 2020. In a 2019 interview, he told The Art Newspaper that the blossoms works “seemed really tacky, like a massive celebration, and also the negative, the death side of things. Then I thought: ‘But what if I actually paint branches and I try and make them look like that?’"
He added: “I was a bit worried about it because it was representational. When you paint the branches first of all, they look like bad versions of Hockneys. So, I was thinking: 'Shit, maybe this is a disaster.' But then, as I kept working on them and getting rid of the branches here and there and adding branches here and there, they started to have that feel. They seemed between something representational and something abstract, which I really like.”