08 Aug, 2009

Symbols of myth and magic

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

The sculpture, never before seen in the UK, will be displayed among works by Barbara Hepworth and Derek Jarman at Cornwall’s The Dark Monarch exhibition this autumn

One of Damien Hirst’s unicorns, a foal with a golden horn, will gaze mournfully from its goldplated tank of formaldehyde at the entrance to an exhibition on magic and art at Tate St Ives’s this autumn.

The loan, only confirmed today, is a coup for the gallery: it will be the first time a major piece by Hirst has been shown in the south-west, even though the artist has a home just across the county border in Devon. The Child’s Dream 2008 has not been seen in the UK before, but another of Hirst’s unicorn series, the Dream, sold for £2.3m at his notorious Sotheby’s auction last year.

Hirst said: “The work really lends itself to the themes of [the show]. Children’s dreams are more fantastical than adult’s dreams and, as the sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi said, ‘when we are no longer children we are already dead’.”

Unicorns, according to Martin Clark, artistic director at Tate St Ives, are no strangers to the often dark and sinister folklore of the county that has inspired the exhibition, entitled The Dark Monarch. “The unicorn is a powerful symbol of good in early pagan mythology and is still associated with fairytales and the mystical landscapes of King Arthur in Britain and Cornwall. Hirst’s exploration of this beautiful, but unreachable, beast will be a great opening to our exhibition.”

The show takes its title from a controversial novel by Sven Berlin, whose 1962 roman à clef stripped bare the sexual shenanigans of St Ives’s famous colony of artists. A first edition of the book will also feature in the exhibition.

The Dark Monarch opens in October, and will also include works by Graham Sutherland, Paul Nash, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, as well as contemporary artists and the late Derek Jarman.

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