See Spots Sell

Article excerpt

Byline: Blake Gopnik

Has Damien Hirst made the largest painting in the world? Let the debate begin.

Some paintings are small enough that you can take in their subject and tiniest details at once. Bigger ones make you do a little dance, stepping close for brushstrokes and back for the full picture. But the largest painting I know--the largest ever made--makes you hop on a jet to see all its parts. I got a close-up look at some of those details last week in New York at a show called Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings, which previewed at Larry Gagosian's gallery on 21st Street. To take in the whole work I'd need to hike to the dealer's two other venues in Manhattan, and then fly to Gagosian branches in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens, and Hong Kong.

Hirst, the British art star who turns 47 this year, has spread 331 of his signature dotted canvases, out of some 1,400 he made, across Gagosian spaces around the world. Millicent Wilner, a gallery director who works closely with Hirst, describes the project as a "full retrospective" that lets the works bounce off each other, but I don't think that idea goes far enough. The pictures are more than single pieces in a series: each one gets its full effect and meaning only when you think of it as one small part of a whole that stretches forever, in every direction and dimension. …