Freeze. Surrey Docks, London, United Kingdom.

6 August 1988 – 29 September 1988

Photograph © Lala Meredith-Vula © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

The exhibition, which ran from 6th August to 29th September in three rolling parts is commonly acknowledged to have been the launching point for a generation of British artists.

In order to facilitate ‘Freeze’, Hirst gained sponsorship from the London Docklands Development Corporation and the property development firm Olympia & York for the exhibition, securing the loan of the empty Port of London Authority Building in Surrey Docks, South-East London. Hirst, who was working part-time at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, prepared the disused warehouse for the show, installing lighting and painting the walls with the help of fellow student and exhibitor Angus Fairhurst.

Many of the 16 artists featured were Hirst’s contemporaries at Goldsmiths. Their work was bound by their collective variety of approach, intention and result. In the first phase of the rolling exhibition, Hirst installed the cardboard and household-gloss piece ‘Boxes’ (1988). For the final phase, he exhibited the spot paintingsEdge’ and ‘Row’ (1988), which were painted directly onto the warehouse wall. Other notable inclusions were Mat Collishaw’s ‘Bullet Hole’ (1988), a backlit transparency of a gunshot wound to the head, and Anya Gallaccio’s ‘Waterloo’ (1988), a lead and bronze floor installation. Also shown were an oil on canvas painting by Dominic Denis, ‘Painting’ (1988), and Michael Landy’s tarpaulin work ‘Sovereign’ (1988).

Hirst describes the conception and curation of the exhibition in analogous terms to the development of his work at the time. He explains: “I found I could work with already organised elements. And I suppose in ‘Freeze’ the artists were kind of already organised elements in themselves and I arranged them.”[1]

The sponsorship he secured also facilitated the production of a professional exhibition catalogue designed by Tony Arefin. In the summer of 1988, Hirst and Fairhurst distributed copies of the catalogue in galleries and bookshops in anticipation of the show’s opening. An important component to Hirst’s conception of the exhibition, this colour publication allocated individual pages to each artist, and included an essay by Goldsmiths tutor Ian Jeffrey (Port of London Authority, 1988). On the significance and concept of the exhibition, Jeffrey wrote: “A collective imagination, that is, functioning along structuralist lines … all under cover of acute diversitarianism, more apparent than real. ‘Freeze’ is now, as the title implies.”[2]

Through Hirst’s garnering of publicity for the exhibition, and with the support of his Goldsmiths tutor Michael Craig-Martin, ‘Freeze’ was attended by such notable curators, journalists and collectors as Richard Shone, Nicholas Serota, Charles Saatchi and Norman Rosenthal. Hirst personally ensured Rosenthal’s attendance by insisting on driving him to the exhibition and back to the Royal Academy. Of the exhibition, Craig-Martin has stated: “It amuses me that so many people think what happened was calculated and cleverly manipulated whereas in fact it was a combination of youthful bravado, innocence, fortunate timing, good luck, and, of course, good work. It caught people’s imagination.”[3]

The artists featured in ‘Freeze’ were Steven Adamson, Angela Bulloch, Mat Collishaw, Ian Davenport, Angus Fairhurst, Anya Gallaccio, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Michael Landy, Abigail Lane, Sarah Lucas, Lala Meredith-Vula, Stephen Park, Richard Patterson, Simon Patterson and Fiona Rae.


[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 124

[2] Ian Jeffrey, ‘Platonic Tropics’, ‘Freeze’ (Port of London Authority, 1988), unpag.

[3] Michael Craig-Martin cited in Brian Sherwin, ‘Art Space Talk: Michael Craig-Martin’, (Myartspace>blog, August 2007)