227 hours – That’s how long it took for AM to travel the globe and complete the Spot Challenge presented by Damien HirstGagosian Gallery. As we broke the news about this unique promotion, we thought, “why don’t we take Damien up on his challenge instead of just reporting on it?” Some of us have long been fans of Mr. Hirst’s spot paintings, so pair that with the opportunity to visit eight awesome cities (Geneva, Paris, London, Rome, Athens, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong) and it gave us the motivation to step up for an experience of a lifetime.

From the moment we got our registration card at the Paris opening of the The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011 to the last stop in Hong Kong for the final stamp, our nine day journey was a grueling yet rewarding sightseeing marathon. Signing up online was the easy part (over 700 contestants to date), trying to figure out how to do this journey without any sponsorship or corporate reimbursement was going to take some homework & dedication. After spending over seven hours researching travel plans we set a planes, trains & automobiles itinerary to take us through three continents, six time zones, seven countries, eight cities and 11 galleries in nine days without vaporizing the piggy bank.

Take a detailed look at our quest after the jump.

First stop Paris!

From the announcement of his show, we’ve heard both positive and negative comments on the concept of this retrospective. So, we decided to sidestep the noisy banter and take a look for ourselves before letting opinions sway our judgment. From spots as large as 5 feet to ones that are barely 5 millimeters, to complex & dense dot matrices to simplistic “less is more” compositions – we ran into old, dull, and loose circles to new, shiny and tightly manufactured spots. This experience offers visitors a detailed view of where Damien started with his spots to the evolution into its current state. Experiencing all 331 paintings gave us a different appreciation on these simple yet conceptual paintings.

We’re not telling you what you should like or dislike, but recommend that if you think Damien’s spot paintings are nothing more than glorified twister mats, then stop reading and go to your nearest Gagososian to see it in person before passing judgement. This trip wasn’t merely a stamp grab where we parachuted into each city for 2 hours. With that in mind we made an effort to research and make the most of this unique opportunity so that we may take in the local hospitality of each city. If you can’t make every one of the galleries in person, don’t worry – we made this trip and shot the pictures with you in mind. As stated earlier, it was exhausting but also a beautiful experience. If we had to do it again, we definitely would.

There’s been a lot of speculations on why people are doing this and what they’ll be doing with their print. For the record: This world tour was done for the love of art, travel and the spirit of the challenge. It’s definitely not for profit; this print is not going anywhere but on our wall.

Paris: Our journey kicked off in France, the “City of Love,” as we took our first ever ride on the Chunnel from the UK. As an added bonus, we were also able to work in a quick stop at JR’s Paris studio for a peek at some upcoming projects. As you saw from our coverage, the Paris Gagosian location was a multi level affair. After taking in the dots and getting our card’s cherry popped, we moved down the street to hang with Futura at his opening & party.

Goodbye London... see you for the Olympics!

Some proper porridge for my first ride on the Chunnel!

A visit to the studio of JR will not be complete without a session in his photo booth...

Arc de Triomphe

Champs de Élysées

Crepes Flambé

Athens: Next stop was Greece, where we hit up the Athens Gagosian location. After getting our second stamp, we had some time to take some sights around the ancient city and recharge with some of the local Greek fare.

The Hellenic Parliament

The Acropolis of Athens

Athens Agora Central Market

Agora Central Market is a carnivore paradise

An unforgettable Greek sunset

Goodbye Greece!

Rome: Our third stop took us to Italy and its legendary city of Rome. We headed to catch the historic sites such as the Vatican, Pantheon and Piazza Navona before Gagosian opened up. After checking out the gorgeous space and getting our stamp, we chowed down on some delicious carbonara & panna cotta.

Rome from 20,000 feet

Piazza Navona

Italians show their pride by lighting up the streets.

Walking on Via della Concordia towards the Vatican

The Vatican

The Pantheon

Rome knows how to bomb it!

Geneva: Switzerland was our next stop as we headed to the foot of the Swiss Alps to catch the Gagosian’s gallery space for our fourth stamp. We took a beautiful sunset walk from the train station to the plush city center. Did we mention that the Swiss practically make chocolates into an art form? These savory bites helped keep us chugging along in the freezing weather.

Off the plane and there is the Swiss Alps!

Switzerland just in time for sunset...

The altitude of Geneva gives it some amazing sunsets

Bottled Coca-Cola is one of the perks of traveling abroad!

United Kingdom: The longest stretch of our trip was spent in the UK where we mixed in studio visits with some AM favorites like Ian Francis, Conor Harrington, Chloe Early, Nick Walker and Antony Micallef (the gallery is closed on Sundays & Mondays) before resuming our trek for our fifth and sixth stamps. London is one of two cities on this tour which has more than one location. The Britannia location is their primary space that housed some massive spot paintings, while the Davies St. location was a boutique space which displayed the most unique series as their collections of spots were by far the tiniest often consisting of only one dot or half a dot on a canvas often no more than 2-5 inches in size.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Sneak peek at a coming Ian Francis studio visit...

Checked out the SPOT print show at Other Criteria

Spotted a Ben Eine!

You can't visit London and not have Fish & Chips...

New York: With Europe in our rear view we got back to the United States and got a chance to recharge our batteries in the Big Apple. We toured the three massive locations of the NYC Gagosians to get stamps 7, 8 and 9. At the Madison Location we got to see some of the oldest spot paintings, while the 24st St. location gave us a look at some beautiful tondos. Finally we fell in love with a massive 4 dot canvas at the 21st St. location.

Tondos tondos tondos!

One of the oldest spot paintings...

Los Angeles: Home of AM West, Los Angeles was also home to the Beverly Hills Gagosian. The iconic space held an impressive array of spot paintings both large and small (here). Here we caught our tenth stamp as we prepared for our 15 hour journey to Asia for the finale. Up until this point, we were in the lead to finish first in the challenge with Art Ruby and Fast Company’s editor Jeff Chu nipping at our heels. But with both contestants needing only one city to finish and the fact that we were flying against the sun and losing a day crossing into Asia, it was out of our hands.

A quick Sukiyaki dinner with Croatian Style in LA

Challenge update calendar shows that we are in first!? Too bad we'll lose 24 hours on a plane to Hong Kong...

Hong Kong: When we landed in Hong Kong at 6am, the airport wifi gave us the news that hours before, Art Ruby and Jeff Chu competed their challenge (congrats!). Regardless, we chugged along to grab some local dim sum with Vancouver based artist Mandy Tsung before the Gagosian Hong Kong opened their doors at 11am. The beautiful space was where our crazy journey ended with the 11th and final stamp.

Arrived in Hong Kong 6 hours early... what to do before that last stamp?!

Delicious baked BBQ pork buns from my favorite Dim Sum spot Tim Ho Wan

Two future winners that will complete the spot challenge? They've already got Hong Kong, US and a few other cities already knocked off... good luck!

All Done!

Mandy Tsung gets her first stamp in HK... we go full circle! Go Mandy Go!

Happy Valley Racecourse

The seafood market is packed with last minute Chinese New Years shoppers!

On the Star Ferry checking out Hong Kong Harbor...

Shopping at Temple Street night market

Taking a ride on the LONGEST escalator in the world!

A peek at Yoshitomo Nara sculptures by How2Work Studios... A studio visit coming soon!

Our completed card stamped in a unique combination...

Thanks for sticking with us to the end of this world tour. As a bonus for those to made it to the end of this article we have a special giveaway for you DH Spot fans that can’t make the journey for this special retrospective. We have one copy of this exhibition catalog from the Gagosian for one of you lucky readers. How do you win? Just leave a comment below stating your favorite spot size and color (i.e. 3 inch Magenta) by February 18th and we’ll select one winner at random.

Discuss this show here.
Discuss Damien Hirst here.