31 July 2013
As part of a comprehensive survey of the work of British artist Jonathan Yeo, an extraordinary six-foot-high portrait of Damien Hirst is to go on display for the first time this September. The work will be shown as part of the National Portrait Gallery's selection of Yeo’s portraits spanning over a decade of sitters from the world of politics, media and the arts.
Painted entirely from life, Yeo portrays Hirst in a chemical dry suit typically used for working with formaldehyde. Framed in a vitrine-style structure, the portrait references some of Hirst’s most iconic works. Yeo comments: "People assume [Damien and I] have completely contrary positions – of tradition and modernity, painting and the physical – however, artists are always interested in other artists, and how and what they achieve in their work. Damien, and his undeniable ongoing impact on the art world, is endlessly fascinating. The pose was intended to reflect ironically his supposed status as dark overlord of the Contemporary Art scene and hopefully some observers will be reminded of Velasquez’s and Bacon's Popes. Ultimately his faint smirk is the giveaway, both that he was a knowing collaborator in the choice of composition, and that his mischievous sense of humour is never far from anything he does."
Of the importance of Yeo's work, Hirst states: “Like Turner strapping himself to the ship’s mast in order to create a true likeness of a storm, Yeo time and time again achieves what should be impossible: creating a true picture, an image or a glimpse, of people we think we know and of those we’ve never met."
Other never-before-seen works included in the exhibition include Yeo’s depiction of actor Kevin Spacey in character as Shakespeare’s Richard III.