While his toxic, formaldehyde-based work may not be the most environmentally friendly art production in the world, Damien Hirst’s new personal studio and gallery in Stroud, England — where his team will be plunging ever more creatures into preservatives — is being designed by a small, eco–conscious firm.
Designed by Designspace Architects of Bath, England, a firm “dedicated to the pursuit of well-designed, environmentally conscious solutions,” the curiously named Science Gallery & Studio and Science Formaldehyde buildings have an incredibly sterile look to them, all sleek lines over aluminum and glass with only the most minimal accents built over the frame of a former plastics manufacturing building. “The artist’s production of large-scale art work requires highly specialised accommodation, including freezer storage and a fire protected art store,” the architects note.
It’s not a terribly exciting-looking building, but like any white wall gallery space, the goal is to make the art pop, and as you can see in the above rendering it should do exactly that for just about any giant anatomically exposed sculpture or splattered spin art painting Hirst might display beneath the dappled daylight. Outside by the river will be a sculpture garden, maybe for some more monolithic waterside aggression in the vein of his “Verity” statue, which menaces and/or protects the port of Illfracombe in Devon, England.
The dead animals preservation station will have plenty of ventilation for the hazardous chemicals, and the building will serve as a gatehouse for visitors. Yet why the “Science” name? Sure, there is much science in the chemicals of liquid preservatives, and of course he’s an artist fixated on the details of anatomy, but the science seems to never really be the point of Hirst’s art, especially when poor preservations in the past have resulted in sadly disintegrated sharks.
Maybe it’s a call back to the Spirit Collection at the Natural History Museum in London, an impressive collection of formaldehyde specimens including those collected by Charles Darwin and even a giant squid named Archie, where Hirst is said to have gotten some initial inspiration for the submerged animals. Either way, the art market alchemist seems to be on a bit of a building spree, with the studio and private gallery coming not too long after his announcement of a south London public gallery for his personal art collection, planned to open in 2014, the name for which has yet to be revealed.
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Those who want to visit the museum muse have a surgical, KN95, N95, or KF94 face mask.
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Tensions between resistance to Surrealism as cultural imperialism and the embrace of it as a universalist vision of freedom unfettered run through the show.