Private Collection, London (acquired directly from the artist)
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
"I believe all painting and art should be uplifting for the viewer... I love colour. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz" (Damien Hirst, I want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Forever, Now, London 1997, p. 246).
Executed in 1999, Chlorophyll B is a kaleidoscopic display of complex colour harmonies from Hirst's celebrated series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings. Joyous candy coloured spots are precisely arranged in a rigorous geometric system across a pristine white ground; no colour is ever repeated, and the spacing between each dot is perfectly equal. Hirst said of the series, "mathematically with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art which is the harmony of where colour can exist on its own, interacting with other colours in a perfect format" (the artist cited in: Gordon Burn & Damien Hirst, On The Way to Work, London 2001, pp. 119-120). The resulting disjunction between the varied spot colours and their formal arrangement simultaneously creates and disrupts harmony, serving as a metaphor for the futility of the compulsive human desire to organise, classify and control the things that we fear most in our bid to evade mortality.
First exhibited at the seminal Freeze exhibition of 1988, The Pharmaceutical Paintings have since become a distinctive signature of Hirst's ground-breaking work. Recalling Gerhard Richter's colour chart paintings, the surface sheen of Pop and the elegance of minimalism, the Spot paintings also embody the fundamental tenets of Hirst's oeuvre: the common ground between the antithetical faculties of science and art. He declared, 'Art doesn't purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings... Art is like medicine – it can heal" (Damien Hirst, I want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Forever, Now, London 1997, p. 244-245). With their uniformly circular shape and bright colouring, the spots are analogous to the life-giving pills of modern medicine. In Hirst's work, contemporary science reaches its apotheosis, as the artist taps into our blind credence in the restorative powers of man-made drugs. Just as old masters in past centuries used art for the evocation of saintliness, decorating churches with paintings inspired by biblical scenes to create an atmosphere conducive to religious fervour, so here with Chlorophyll B Hirst presents us with an artistic temple to the new religion of science.
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