A series of new paintings by Damien Hirst, which have never been shown in public before, is on display in the State Rooms at Houghton Hall for the exhibition Damien Hirst at Houghton Hall: Colour Space Paintings and Outdoor Sculptures opened on 25 March 2018.
Houghton, King’s Lynn, UK
25 March – 15 July 2018
The 46 new paintings, from a series entitled Colour Space, are a development of the iconic Spot Paintings, which are among the artist’s most recognised works. The Colour Space series sees a return to his first Spot Painting made in 1986. The new paintings are much looser in form than the minimal grid style with which he is now synonymous.
As Hirst has explained: “My first ever Spot Painting  was loose and painted with drippy paint, not minimal at all. In that first painting, I was wrestling with what I originally thought of as the coldness of Minimalism and the more emotional, abstract expressionist painting style I’d grown up with. At the time I painted it, it felt uncool and I abandoned it immediately for the rigidity of the grid, removing the mess, but after doing the Spot catalogue raisonné I’ve felt really drawn to that first painting and knew I’d revisit it eventually – maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I realised I was wrong about Minimalism – the simplest, cleanest thing can provoke an emotional response – but the Spot Paintings still play with that idea; despite the grid they always look happy, although there’s an unease there too because the colours don’t repeat when you expect them to. I originally wanted the Spots to look like they were painted by a human trying to paint like a machine. Colour Space is going back to the human element, so instead you have the fallibility of the human hand in the drips and inconsistencies. There are still no two exact colours that repeat in each painting, which is really important to me. I think of them as cells under a microscope. It felt right to show them somewhere historic rather than in a conventional gallery space and Houghton’s perfect. It feels totally right.”
The exhibition also includes 15 sculptures, amongst these are some of the artist’s most iconic large-scale bronze works, which are displayed in Houghton’s grounds. A number of sculptures are also shown inside the house, including two kinetic ball works from Hirst’s Mental Escapology series (both 2000). Dog with Bone (2017) is from a new series of scaled-up pipe cleaner animals and is displayed alongside two rotating Spin Paintings.
To coincide with the exhibition, Hirst’s 20ft bronze sculpture, Hymn (1999–2005) will be shown at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) from 26 March to 29 July. The sculpture will be in place through the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in May.
The exhibition is curated by Mario Codognato, who had worked on several of the artist’s previous projects including his first retrospective in Naples, The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989–2004, Museo Archeologico Nazionale de Napoli 2004-5 and Candy: Damien Hirst & Felix Gonzales-Torres, Blain|Southern, London, 2013.
Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton, said: ”We are delighted to have this opportunity to show Damien Hirst’s new paintings in the State Rooms at Houghton, together with some of his best-known sculptures in the grounds. It is the first time that Hirst has shown a significant body of work in a classical country house setting.”
Houghton Hall was built by Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole in around 1722. Designed by architects Colen Campell and James Gibbs and executed by Thomas Ripley, Surveyor of the King’s Works, it is one of the country’s finest examples of Palladian architecture. Later, Sir Robert engaged William Kent to decorate the grand rooms on the state floor.
Recently, many of the rooms have been restored to how they would have looked in Sir Robert’s day, and formal planting on the garden front has been reinstated. Visitors will also find an award-winning walled garden, a museum of model soldiers, a restaurant and a shop. A number of contemporary art works, including pieces by Stephen Cox, Jeppe Hein, Anya Gallaccio, Zhan Wang, James Turrell and Turner Prize winners Rachel Whiteread and Sir Richard Long have been located in the landscape.
Viennese auction house, Dorotheum, the oldest in continental Europe, is a fitting partner for the exhibition which juxtaposes old and new. Established in 1707, the auction house continually belies its eighteenth century traditional heritage with innovative modern contemporary works including those by Damien Hirst.