Archaeology Now is a Solo exhibition by British artist Damien Hirst presenting over 80 works from the Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable series, hosted in the sumptuous halls of Galleria Borghese, in a creative dialogue with the magnificent masterpieces of the museum.
The project stems from one of Hirst’s most original research in the last twenty years, on display for the first time in 2017 in Venice. The artist worked with different materials – natural, technological and precious – with exceptional technique and skill. His works – made from marble, bronze, rock crystal, and semi-precious stones – cross the boundary between reality and fiction, enhancing the desire for the eclecticism of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the Gallery founder.
Hirst’s sculptures come with an elaborate (and untrue) backstory. Purportedly 2,000 years old, they were supposedly uncovered in the cargo of a sunken ship rescued off the coast of East Africa in 2008, part of an underwater archaeology venture funded by the British artist (hence the coral and barnacles encrusting some of the works). The original “Treasures” exhibition, which reportedly cost $65 million to produce, debuted at the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana in 2017.
Curated by Anna Coliva and Mario Codognato Archaeology Now brings together sculptures, both monumental and small, made from materials such as bronze, Carrara marble, and malachite.
Furthermore, alongside the Gallery permanent collection, the Colour Space paintings are displayed for the first time in Italy. Hirst defined them as “cells under the microscope”: They break the idea of a unified image, float in space, colliding and merging with one another, with a sense of movement that contradicts the stasis of the canvas.
Of great visual impact is the colossal Hydra and Kali sculpture, visible in the outer space of the Secret Garden of the Birdhouse.
Damien Hirst , Archaeologia Now at Galleria Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, Rome, June 8–November 7, 2021.