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

March 14,2018 08:29

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 ...and more »

Mr. Hirst, 52, said he feels “a bit old” at times but claimed he’s not interested in outdoing himself. A decade spent sinking and exhuming treasures — he sunk tens of millions of dollars into the Venice project — caused him to “stop thinking and do something totally visual.”
Venice was a tumultuous period. Separated from the mother of his three children, the fashion designer Maia Norman, and recently involved with Katie Keight, a model, Mr. Hirst is 11 years clean from smoke, drink, drugs, ever aware of the hourglass. “I’ve got all of those addict sort of behaviors,” he said, including being a workaholic. “I loved all that, and it screws you up and screws with your relationship and your family. I stopped all that.”
“You’ve only got so many 10 years in your life, don’t you?” he went on, recalling Venice’s toll. “My son said to me, in Venice, ‘Dad, you don’t need to do this.’”
Despite his wild success, Mr. Hirst still sees himself as an outsider in what he calls a “stuffy” scene in which people “look their nose down” at him for breaking rules. Like many powerful men, he retains a deep desire to be accepted by the working class world he arose from — in his case, a postwar industrial Leeds of poverty and broken homes. Growing up without money, and then being known for it as much as the work, still stings.
“When I grew up, I never thought I’d get paid doing a job I enjoyed,” he said. “I thought, oh, I’ll probably make art, little things on the weekend. That was what I was looking forward to.”
Once known for trouble, even sticking a piece of chicken into the opening of his penis in a restaurant, for shock value, and getting sued for it, he has visibly mellowed. Maybe it’s a result of therapy, he mused, which he attends once a week. “A lot of people when they meet me, they think I’m O.K. in the end, ‘I like that guy.’ I think that surprises people. I have no idea what I do when I meet people for the first time.”
Mr. Gagosian understands the shift. “He’s sober, which makes communication a lot more reliable,” he said. “He’s healthy, he’s into yoga. He likes to tease people, but there’s not a mean bone in him. He’s endearing, he’s always been that way, even when he wasn’t sober. He was fun when he was drinking, too. Too much fun for his own good.”

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