"Hello, I'm looking for the Hirst exhibit?"

"The what?" an elderly museum worker squeaked back. I watched as she shuffled frantically through a couple of museum maps.

"I'll find this for you. I should know this," she said, and after calling for backup a minute or two later, told me to go down a level.

The elevator doors opened and I stepped into a tiny room, tucked somewhere between the east wing of Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art and the west.

"BEANS CHIPS," a large half-brown, half-white print screamed at me. I had arrived. The walls were stuffed with floor-to-ceiling, color-blocked posters. They were modeled after drug labels, but the artist, Damien Hirst, had replaced the names of pharmaceuticals with common food items found in his native Britain. To be sure, he included his name on every print, and signed the bottom right-hand corner with the scrabbly signature of a genius.

The exhibit description told me that the prints, "enlarged to a heroic scale," were meant to "provoke us to consider whether faith in medicine… is now comparable to faith in religion."

This deeper meaning was lost on me.

As I stood amidst 13 (to represent the attendees of the Last Supper) of these massive labels, Rembrandt's 'The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,' came to mind.20

That painting, in addition to being beautiful and masterful in and of itself, does not bash the viewer over the head with its significance. Nor does it need a tendentious little blurb pasted alongside it for our comprehension of the piece.

The artist created a sacred mood by manipulating the light, which is pouring over a pale grey cadaver; by painting an engrossed look on the doctors' faces; and by splaying an opened book, Fabric of the Human Body, at the cadaver's feet.

Is the emptiness that comes from looking at Hirst's prints intentional? Maybe, I thought, he was trying to prove to the viewer that art was dead, and that it lacked any transcendence or mystery — like a medical label — by making ugly, awful art.

"I think science and art are both lacking in some sort of spirituality," Hirst said in 2001. "And I think that they're sort of head-butting each other trying to get something like that back."

After mulling this over for a while, I gave up. This is not what I came to a museum for.

I did not come to play some soulless guessing game about an artist's esoteric intentions in printing and displaying ugly things. I came to see works that celebrate human achievement by virtue of their beauty, even if they ask difficult questions or depict evil.

With that, I started to head out of the room. Then, I caught a glimpse of the name "Podesta," wedged under the exhibit description.

That's right, Heather and Tony Podesta, the "super lobbyist," "power collector" couple, owned the whole collection of prints on display.

Tony, brother of Clinton acolyte John Podesta, had married Heather — her third marriage, his second, in 2003. They divorced ten years later.

The duo had acquired hundreds of "awkward" pieces, mostly photography, video installations, and the like. Tony especially enjoyed works "with in-your-face nudity and social critique."

One such work, Soliloquy VII, hung proudly in the Podesta's living room during a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign. For the entire event, the would-be senator very carefully avoided the 8-foot photo, which featured a naked man lying down, feet facing the camera, so as not to be snapped with it. Bad optics, you see.

The pair's wardrobe, like their art taste, was flamboyant and eye-catching. He wore red loafers; she, print dresses and high-high heels. "The pope wears Prada," Mr. Podesta once told the New York Times. "And so do I."

Neither did the couple feel any shame about their lobbying shops — which maintained clients like Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. To prove the point, in the face of Obama's lobbyist bashing in 2008, the Podestas flaunted a Scarlet "L" on their lapels at the Democratic convention in Denver.

With an equal amount of pride, they have thrust their collection of Hirst prints before the public eye—only to have them relegated to a corner of Washington's premier art museum.

I wonder why.

Damien Hirst: The Last Supper, runs through January 1, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art.