Travellers on London’s river-spanning cable car (the few there are anyway) might soon find their journeys overshadowed by an enormous headless demon, courtesy of Damien Hirst.
The property developer Knight Dragon plan to install Hirst’s 18-metre-tall bronze sculpture Demon with Bowl (2014) on the site by the Thames on the Greenwich Peninsula, pending planning permission. Knight Dragon are leading the multi-billion pound redevelopment of the area, which was once the site of Europe’s largest gasworks, and is now home to the O2 Arena. At the time of publication they had not responded to a request for comment.
Demon with Bowl is part of Hirst’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable series and was first presented in the courtyard of Palazzo Grassi during the 2017 edition of the Venice Biennale. The artist created a fictional provenance for the works, saying they were discovered by divers in an ancient shipwreck off the coast of East Africa. Some are encrusted with barnacles, while others have been "conserved".
It will join three smaller sculptures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable series on the peninsula: Hydra and Kali, Mermaid and The Divers.
The works from the series were made in editions of three, plus two artist’s proofs. The price for Demon with Bowl was reportedly originally set at $14m. It is not clear which version of the work will be installed in Greenwich. Another version currently resides at a Las Vegas hotel.
Installing the sculptures was a sort of homecoming for Hirst, who lived in nearby Pilot Way in the late 1980s, before becoming a student at Goldsmiths College. At the time the Georgian terrace stood amongst the gas works—now it is marooned by new apartment buildings.
“It’s so weird, because when I came down to look at the site of the sculptures, I totally assumed it had all been knocked down, but actually it’s the only thing left. I was really shocked,” he told a promotional magazine for Knight Dragon. “At the end of the night, I’d sit by the river and look at all the rusted cranes. I’d collect things that were washed up on the riverbank, too; old bottles and bits of plastic, which I’d make into collages. That process later influenced my series, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, which is where the Peninsula’s artworks come from,” he added.
The Hirst sculptures are among several on the Peninsula, by artists including Antony Gormley, Gary Hume, Richard Wilson, Thomson & Craighead, Alex Chinneck and Allen Jones. They are part of public sculpture trail The Line.