DO1301

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Lot 8
  • 8

Damien Hirst

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
Sold
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Description

  • Damien Hirst
  • Untitled A
  • glass, painted MDF, ramin, steel, plastic, aluminium and pharmaceutical packaging
  • 76.2 by 101.6 by 22.8cm.; 30 by 40 by 9in.
  • Executed in 1992.

Provenance

White Cube, London
Private Collection, USA
Haunch of Venison, London
Private Collection
BLAIN|SOUTHERN, London

Exhibited

New York, L&M Arts, Damien Hirst: The Complete Medicine Cabinets, 2010, p. 179, illustrated in colour

Literature

Robert Violette, Ed., Damien Hirst: I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London 1997, p. 221, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Damien Hirst’s Untitled A is a highly important early work from the artist’s iconic series of Medicine Cabinets. Three shelves filled with various pharmaceutical ingredients, seemingly arranged with almost obsessive precision, confront the viewer with unabashed audacity, courageously symbolising complex issues and concerns.  Hirst’s early work had been characterised by an overwhelmingly Minimalist style, yet the Medicine Cabinets enabled the natural inclusion of colour and shape into his works, introducing new levels of detail and interest, combined with art-historical references to Pop Art in their implied consumerist aesthetic. Hirst created his first Medicine Cabinets for his degree show, and was so fascinated by the endless possible permutations and the potential behind the idea that he continued to refine the concept to increasing levels of precision. In an recent interview with Nicholas Serota, Hirst recalled the creation of the early Medicine Cabinets: “In the first twelve, I’d done all that arranging  in the same way that I was doing in a painting. I’d played around with them for ages and moved things and then it was as if I wasn’t there when I’d done it. So I think it was a way for me to do that, without ramming it down people’s throats. You can’t do paintings like Rauschenberg forever.” (The artist cited in an interview with Nicholas Serota in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Damien Hirst, 2012, p. 94). In the same interview the artist declared that the first of his works that he was ever truly satisfied with was a Medicine Cabinet, indicating the immense significance of the series within his early career. (Ibid., p. 93).

Untitled A, along with the other works in the Medicine Cabinet series, combines two of Hirst’s key interests and abiding areas of investigation: science and mortality. The very presence of the serried ranks of medicine bottles, creams and pills hints at the fragility of the human body, whilst acting as a concomitant paean to the remarkable medical advances made during the course of the twentieth century. The darker connotations suggested by the Medicine Cabinets are thus alleviated by the inherent presence of hope and the possibility of being able to mitigate pain and suffering. Full of items that have the potential to heal, the simple medicine cabinet is here imbued with life-changing qualities, echoing Hirst’s oft-evoked statement that “Art should heal.” Untitled A thus becomes an almost magical repository of seeming immortality: a fount of miraculous wonder. Hirst remembers a moment in a pharmacy with his mother, picking up on the trusting faith of the general population in the power of pills and other modern medical inventions to cure all ills, an all-encompassing panacea: “I’d been trying to explain loads of work to my mum, about what I’d been doing. She’s an open-minded person, but she had a completely closed mind about it… And I was with my mum in the chemist: she was getting a prescription, and it was, like, complete trust on the one level in something she’s equally in the dark about… It’s just completely packaging and formal sculpture and organised shapes. My mum was looking at the same kind of stuff in the chemist’s and believing in it completely. And then, when looking at it in an art gallery, completely not believing in it. As far as I could see, it was the same thing… I really loved the idea of art maybe, you know, curing people.” (The artist cited in: Gordon Burn & Damien Hirst, On the Way to Work, London 2001, p. 25). Ultimately Untitled A can be viewed as a work of elegiac beauty and intense feeling: an emotive and moving celebration of the universal ability to allow hope to triumph over despair within the human mind.

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