Damien Hirst’s doubleheader in Venice is undoubtedly one of the worst exhibitions of contemporary art staged in the past decade. It is devoid of ideas, aesthetically bland, and ultimately snooze-inducing—which, one has to concede, is a kind of achievement for a show with work that has taken ten years and untold millions of dollars to create.

This should have been a triumph. Hirst loves a grand occasion, and the prospect of taking over collector François Pinault’s palatial spaces in the Most Serene Republic, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, would seem like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to let it rip. I was looking forward to an extravagant bit of Hirst nihilism, betting that the artist could at least deliver something so truly bad that it would be delightfully good. Instead, Hirst choked. It is bad show, and a depressing one. read more