Damien Hirst’s Cherry Blossoms series


Damien Hirst’s 24 paintings of vibrant cherry blossoms in full bloom fill the space at the National Art Center in Tokyo from January 15 to 20, 2022.


In Japan, it is just in time for the cherry blossom season for the third spring since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. It is spectacular to see cherry blossoms on such a scale and painted with a unique technique.


Cherry blossom trees have cultural significance for us Japanese people. They are characterized by their short blooming period and abundance of flowers. We associate its short blooming period with the finite and transient nature of human life.


During World War II, scattered cherry blossoms were used as a metaphor to glorify the deaths of Japanese warriors. Even now, scattered cherry blossoms signify failed university entrance examinations.


Cherry blossom trees in full bloom are symbols of the beginnings and departures in our lives. Thus, we tend to be sentimental about seeing magnificent cherry blossoms. We have seen numerous paintings of cherry blossoms by Japanese artists since ancient times, most of which are described to be delicate and fine.


On the other hand, Hirst’s cherry blossoms are so magnificent and strong because he engaged in the action of tossing paint from a distance onto the canvas, using a large brush. He also applied various colors to highlight the brilliance and brightness.


We are overwhelmed by the vitality of the flowers, which are densely blooming on the branches, but which will scatter soon.


Hirst said, “The Cherry Blossoms are about beauty and life and death. …… They’re about desire and how we process the things around us and what we turn them into, but also about the insane visual transience of beauty – a tree in full crazy blossom against a clear sky.”


The exhibition is intended to provide visitors with a respite from the despairing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an exhibition to make us conscious of the transience and beauty of cherry blossoms.


Posted on March 17, 2022