Lot 128
  • 128

DAMIEN HIRST | Cytosine-5-H

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Damien Hirst
  • Cytosine-5-H
  • signed on the stretcher; signed, titled and dated 2007 on the reverse
  • household gloss on canvas
  • 106.7 by 96.5 cm. 42 by 38 in.


Gagosian Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner 


Jason Beard and Millicent Wilner, Eds., Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011, London 2013, p. 514, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality of the spots is brighter, lighter and more vibrant in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals a few minute media accretions in isolated places. No restoration is apparent under ultra violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A cacophany of shades of rose, pink and magenta, interspersed with vibrant accents of orange, blue and green amongst others, the two inch cellular kaleidoscopic field of Cytosine-5-H is an immaculate example of Damien Hirst's iconic corpus of Spot Paintings. First conceived alongside the Medicine Cabinets in the early 1990s, Hirst's Spot Paintings are imbued with the same measured rational order and pleasing formal cogency of his pharmacy-store vitrines. "I started them as an endless series", explains Hirst, "a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies' scientific approach to life. Art doesn't purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings, and the individual titles of the paintings themselves... Art is like medicine, it can heal" (Damien Hirst, I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One To One, Always, Forever, Now, London 1997, p. 246). By scrutinising yet adopting this iconography Hirst restores to art the miraculous function it once provided. Sterile, medicinal, and forensic, Hirst's Spot Paintings are a modern day devotional paean to the life-giving promise of modern science: the Spot Paintings posit the spectator as unwitting participant in Humanity's global paranoia of death. The all-pervading presence of death is the Hirstian trope par excellence. Cryptically hidden beneath the immaculate surface of Cytosine-5-H lies the deathly undertone familiar to the Pharmaceutical Paintings. In the early 1990s, Hirst started naming these paintings alphabetically after the exotic sounding substances listed in the Sigma Chemical Company's catalogue, Biochemical Organic Compounds for Research and Diagnostic Reagents. The title of the present work, Cytosine-5-H, refers to the nitrogen base that is thought to regulate gene expression or prompt DNA demethylation. Drugs have become the ubiquitous modifier of Nature: the remit of human existence is continually conditioned by the powers of modern science, from pre-birth sedatives dealt through the placenta, to near-death stimulants fed through an intravenous drip. When these works were first produced, the critic Jerry Saltz commented: "The names of these drugs conjure a vision of human misery and dread. With every drug comes a reference to a particular sickness, along with a list of side effects...These drugs form an analogue for the mysteries of the human body and its vast hermetic complexity" (Jerry Saltz, ‘Art in America’, 1995, in: ibid., p. 173). Disseminated via a simple schema of geometric logic, the controlled emotionless self-restriction of Hirst's candy-coloured grid belies an unsettling and fractured viewing experience: "If you look closely at any one of these paintings a strange thing happens; because of the lack of repeated colours there is no harmony... in every painting there is a subliminal sense of unease; yet the colours project so much joy it's hard to feel it, but it's there. The horror underlying everything. The horror that can overwhelm everything at any moment" (Damien Hirst, ibid., 173).

Hirst's complex dialectic, founded in themes of death and a confrontation of faith structures, is ultimately revealed through the cheerful simplicity of colour: "I love colour. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz. I hate taste - it's acquired" (Ibid. p. 173). His aim is to motivate an audience to think about the terms of their existence, to ontologically expose and undermine the avoidance of death by fully and poetically acknowledging its omnipotence; an impetus perfectly exemplified by Cytosine-5-H.