FIRST NIGHT / Avante-garde meets the video nasty: Some Went Mad . . . Some Ran Away Serpentine Gallery

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The Independent Online
TAKE Hyde Park's Serpentine Gallery, which the minister responsible for culture says should be turned into a riding stables. Take Damien Hirst, avant-garde artist and animal lover, who opponents in the art world would have mucking out those stables. Take a gathering of international enfants terribles, their rubber, leather and butter exhibits. And you have a private view that borders on a video nasty.

Hirst, 28, on the Turner prize shortlist in 1992, is curating the exhibition and has contributed a typically idiosyncratic animal-loving work of art, a dead lamb suspended in a milky-green preservative liquid. It was hollowed and stuffed with canvas before being placed in formaldehyde.

The exhibition put together by Hirst is advertised as looking at 'fear, loss, hope, death, fantasy'.

Among the other exhibits were Ashley Bickerton's 12in rubber hammerhead shark hanging from the ceiling, 'a sculpture that lies somewhere between a failing ecological preservation and medieval torture'; Marcus Harvey's 'cropped images taken from cheap pornographic magazines which he obscures through a violent, painterly surface;' Jane Simpson's sculptures 'that are constantly changing through the freezing of materials such as butter and ice;' Andreas Slominski's Untitled, a bicycle propped against the wall, covered with carrier bags 'subverting the normal function of ordinary objects to re-examine the more inconspicuous elements of our surroundings.' Hirst himself said: 'These are just things I really like. I like watching people's reactions when they look at the bike and immediately say 'Oh my God, I've got to avoid the guy whose bike this is'.'

Perhaps the best summing up of this year's artistic cutting edge came from the pop artist Peter Blake. 'I'm glad Damien Hirst exists. But I'm glad I'm not him,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)