I must say first off that I don't really know anything about art. I have been to a Monet and Mondrian exhibition and I suspect that's it. I was hopeless at art at school and haven't a clue about art in general. Why then did I pays £14 to see the Damien Hirst exhibition I hear you ask? I suppose it comes from regretting not going to see his famous shark all those years ago when I had the chance. That of course isn't enough on its own but he has had so many iconic pieces of art over the years, not seeing so many of them together would have been another opportunity missed.
The queue for collecting preordered tickets was long but that for buying was huge. There was definitely an atmosphere of anticipation. As I had about 20 minutes before my allotted time I decided to go and see the famous diamond incrusted skull. I had seen pictures of it of course and going inside the Tate Modern you can't miss the posters, t-shirts and postcards of it. Seeing it in the flesh as it were brought back the same feelings I had when I must have been 10 and I saw the Tutankhamen death mask. The skull is stunning and will surely provoke similar reactions in several years to come. If Mr Hirst is interested in life and death, he has made something that will be timeless.
Going in to the exhibition itself the atmosphere of anticipation could be gleaned in people's faces - mine too probably. There was a lovely order to seeing the items on display but I felt so excited, overwhelmed, trying to take it all in that I abandoned this and went through it all swiftly, only to go back to the beginning and take things slower.
Back at the beginning I looked at the small room guide given to me when I showed my ticket and started again. There were many highlights for me. The spot paintings I really liked and if I had one (and it will probably be a poster unless my 6 x numbers come up) I know exactly where I'd put it and would enjoy looking at it.
The shark was obviously a focal point. Everyone and their uncle were taking pictures of it. I got my iPhone out and took the picture below before being told that photography wasn't allowed. I like the picture as it looks as if the man standing looking at it is about to be eaten.
The fish, cows and sheep in cabinets reminded me of days out as a child at the Natural History Museum. The split in half and the surgical instruments reminded me of the Science Museum - the really interesting bit right at the top that seems to be neglected about the history of medicine. The pharmacy cabinets reminded me of the bathroom cabinet at my mum and Dad's - old boots bottles and even a pink packet of Junior Disprol.
'A Thousand Years' was shocking and compelling all at once. Again childhood memories of an old cafe on the Edgware Road near to Church Street Market that seemed to have a decor that hadn't been changed since the 60's flooded back. I remember the ultraviolet light fly catcher.
The butterfly wings arranged in patterns to almost form stained glass windows were beautiful. So much so I bought a postcard. Memories of a tray owned by my grandmother with butterfly wings arranged under glass that fascinated me as a child were played out in my head.
When I told friends and family that I was going to this exhibition I was met with a barrage of "Emperors new clothes, anyone can do what he does" or "I don't get it." I would ask if it were all that easy, why haven't others done it?
I really enjoyed the exhibition and could have stayed much longer than the 80 minutes I did! My only regret is not buying the lovely catalogue detailing the items on display. As I said I have very little knowledge of art or artists but what I saw was contentious, would provoke discussion and be liked and loathed in equal measures. Surely that is a good thing. The exhibition runs until 9th September so if you are in London and want to see something that isn't staid, lifeless and predictable you might want to check it out while you can.