Tanya Gold Tanya Gold

Easy to swallow

…even if, when I visited, the attached gallery was open only for him

Pharmacy 2 is the reanimated child of Damien Hirst; it lives inside the Newport Street Gallery in a forsaken patch of Lambeth by the railway arches. This makes it look, inevitably, like the set of The Bill, but with a painting of Damien Hirst on a nearby wall, which would surely confuse the Bill. Pharmacy 1 was, for five years until 2003, in Notting Hill. So we are already doing better. It is said that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain complained about Pharmacy 1, and worried it would confuse people looking for a real pharmacy, but I do not know if this was true. If it was, they were too stupid to live, even if they did eventually find a pharmacy.

The gallery looks like the interior of a shell. I ask a man behind a desk: is the gallery open? ‘To Damien, yes,’ he says. ‘He is bringing guests.’ Which I think means it is closed; except to Damien, who is bringing guests, which I am happy about but did not need to know. Up a curving white staircase to Pharmacy 2, and I am anxious, because I have to write an opinion about Damien Hirst’s art. And so I say: I don’t mind it. I’d rather own Jacopo Tintoretto’s Crucifixion than anything by Hirst; but I would rather read Hilary Mantel than the Mr Men. Hirst’s thing is to tell us we will die, but in Lego. This is his medium, which does not make it untrue; we will die, and we will die stupid. I do not hate infantilism that mocks infantilism; whatever you may think of the art, the metaphor by itself works, even if it does remind me of Woody Allen’s anxiety sweat. I also suspect that Hirst — unlike other false gods, specifically Lucian Freud, who dropped children the way apes drop shit and painted only his own essential ugliness — is a kind man; and I like that in an artist.

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