- Damien Hirst
- Untitled AAAAAAA
- glass, painted MDF, ramin, steel, plastic, aluminium and pharmaceutical packaging
- 30 x 40 x 9 inches
Private Collection, Prato
Sale: Christie’s, London, Contemporary Art, 29 June 1999, Lot 148
Private Collection, USA
Sale: Christie’s, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art, 14 May 2009, Lot 366
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2009
Exhibition Catalogue, New York, L&M Arts, Damien Hirst: The Complete Medicine Cabinets, 2010, p. 179
The theme of the medicine cabinet has preoccupied Hirst since the very beginning of his stellar career. The first two medicine cabinets, Sinner (1988) and Enemy (1988-89) were created using medicine packets and bottles which had belonged to the artist’s grandmother: Hirst was so pleased with the results that he chose to create a further twelve medicine cabinets shortly afterwards with each work named after a track from the 1977 Sex Pistol’s album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, four examples of which were exhibited for his degree show at Goldsmith’s College of Art in 1989. In a recent interview Hirst recalled that his early medicine cabinets were the first works he was truly satisfied with: “It just looked invincible, and it sort of didn’t have me in there – I wasn’t part of it. I’d seen Jeff Koons’ hoovers, and that was what got me to do the medicine cabinets… I’d hidden myself, in a way, which was the thing that I needed to do” (Damien Hirst in conversation with Nicholas Serota in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Damien Hirst, 2012, pp. 93-94).
Untitled AAAAAAA, along with the other works in the 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 of the Twentieth Century. The darker connotations suggested by Hirst's 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. Untitled AAAAAAA thus becomes an almost magical repository of seeming immortality.
Hirst remembers a moment in a pharmacy with his mother, picking up on the trusting faith that people invest 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” (Damien Hirst quoted in: Gordon Burn and Damien Hirst, On the Way to Work, London 2001, p. 25). An exposition of Hirst’s career-long interest in the cycle of life, Untitled AAAAAAA is a potent signifier of humanity’s inherent hope in the possibilities of future immortality attained through the wonders of scientific advancement.