The online publication Luxury Insider led with the headline, “Stomach Churning: Damien Hirst’s Cock and Bull at London Restaurant.”
“The enfant terrible of British art, Damien Hirst, has created another pickled delight to be placed as the centerpiece of a new London restaurant: and this time it’s a cock perched atop a cow. The installation piece, very succinctly titled Cock and Bull, will loom over diners at Tramshed, a [London] restaurant that specializes in – who would have guessed it? – chicken and steak.”
Cock and Bull is part of Hirst’s ongoing and infamous series, the Natural History Collection, centered around dead animals preserved in formaldehyde.
More about this later…
Artist, entrepreneur and art collector Damien Hirst is said to be the richest living artist – not just in his native Britain, but in the entire world.
Some also label him “bloodthirsty” and they cite as evidence pieces (shown below) made from thousands of dead butterflies fixed to a canvas from Hirst’s Kaleidoscope series. But I find him to be extremely versatile as well. (Check out the Butterfly Heart in the private bridal dining room in the West Hollywood restaurant, CECCONI’S.) Moreover, he’s democratic. Note his installation at BURGER KING (by the bathrooms) in London’s Leicester Square. Then there’s his use of medical devices to decorate a Christmas tree in front of the luxury hotel THE CONNAUGHT, also in London. Go figure.
On occasion, Hirst thinks in terms of scale, as you see in the gallery piece, Golden Mammoth: a life-size skeletal figure completely covered in gold leaf. And when I say “scale,” I’m not simply referring to the size of the work. I’m also referring to the heft of his paycheck. Hirst’s commission was $11 million.
I’m not certain that his success as a restaurant entrepreneur is as rewarding as his artistry. He recently opened a London restaurant of his own called THE PHARMACY #2…I don’t get it. It looks and feels cold and clinical like a pharmacy. Foot-long representations of drug capsules line the walls. And the reviews in the London publications have not been kind.
He’s obviously fond of restaurants. Recently at SEXY FISH on Berkeley Square in London, he was commissioned to create bronze mermaid pieces for the bar. They are quite good. And they make sense. It’s a seafood restaurant.
One that doesn’t make sense to me is in Miami Beach in the new and luxurious FAENA HOTEL complex. The restaurant is called PAO. It’s pan-Asian and highly lauded by the critics. But the Hirst centerpiece in the dining room is a large-scale unicorn – gold leafed on one side, with taut, sinewy musculature and exposed organs on the other. Unicorns exist in some form in both Chinese and Japanese mythology, but I can’t quite see the connective tissue (no pun intended) to the restaurant’s pan-Asian cuisine.
Where did the gold leafed mammoth end up? Right there at The Faena in Miami Beach. You get a sense of the scale when you see Joanne standing in front of the sculpture in the courtyard.
Now it’s time to go to the “dark side” – the bloodthirsty side – of Damien Hirst, where death is a constant theme. Death, formaldehyde and gold leaf – in that order – seem to power this aspect of his work. Artnet News reports that Hirst has killed 912,450 animals, fish and butterflies in pursuit of his craft. That includes 13 sheep, 7 cows, 5 calves, 4 bulls, 3 baby horses, 2 pigs, 1 zebra, 17 sharks, 668 fish and 912,005 butterflies and other insects. He has spawned imitators, including the artist David Cerny, who created a piece depicting the embalmed figure of a handcuffed Saddam Hussein floating in a pickling tank.
So where did Cock and Bull end up?
It found its home, dead center, in Mark Hix’s ballsy East London restaurant called Tramshed. I first saw it two years ago on one of our culinary trips with Parasole colleagues.
Joanne and I have been there since, and although the piece is kind of weird, it makes sense in a twisted way, in that the restaurant specializes in chicken and steak. They have other good stuff as well, so if you are in London, I recommend that you try it out. Kids love it.
And continuity and consistency reign at TRAMSHED. The bathrooms are labeled HENS and COCKS.