Damien Hirst’s Post-Venice, Post-Truth World

The artist worked in secret on his first love, painting, for his new show. This is the anti-Venice, he says.

LOS ANGELES — In army green camouflage and black sweats and with two heavy gold chains swinging with each step of his Nikes, Damien Hirst was in an unusually quiet mood.

Sipping from a can of Diet Coke at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, his jeweled fingers shining, the artist craned to watch as his last nine-foot canvas was installed. Mr. Hirst is used to directing a legion of assistants, but on this day he was pensive.

After so many years relying on others, every one of the works in his new series of “Veil Paintings” was done by his hand and his alone, he said. Twenty-four huge oil works in splashes of blood red, electric blue and rich gold are his homage to the glorious color harmonies by the post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard. Their meaning?

“I make it up after the fact,” Mr. Hirst said. “I don’t even know what this kind of work is. They make me happy, they feel good to look at, they sort of confuse me.” Maybe the public is too busy trying to pin down one meaning, he mused. Maybe there is none. “Truth’s quite hard to find these days.”


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