It’s nice to see Damien Hirst putting his money to good use with the launch of his Newport Street Gallery. In a world where being a poacher gamekeeper is now considered the norm, Hirst manages the triple whammy of being artist, collector and curator. He demonstrates his triumvirate credentials are as fine tuned as his choice of architects, Caruso St John.
With this impressive inaugural exhibition dedicated to the work of John Hoyland’s Power Stations, the Newport Street Gallery is the very essence of elegance. Even the shop display is alluring, whilst Harrods old motto springs to mind, everything from a pin to an elephant, you could find a china mug for £9.99 or a Hirst for considerably more.
The gallery is housed in several old theatre stores (plus a new build) in an enclave of streets that still looks like proper London; a bookies and an old style hairdressers lurk nearby but probably not for much longer, judging by the rise of the totemic architecture shadowing Lambeth High Street. Caruso St John have created a sequence of six spaces over two floors which flow seamlessly. Attention to detail leaves you in no doubt that this is a 37,000 sq ft of magnificent museum where the art of detailing has been perfected: the three stairwells are in themselves works of art with their pristine timber floors and porcelain-looking wall tiles – smooth creamy surfaces are the order of the day. These walls begged to be caressed.
But what of the art? Why Hoyland? Apparently Damien Hirst discovered him whilst still studying and they became friends. As Hirst’s star was in the ascendancy he became a serious collector of Hoyland’s work. The rest as they say is history.