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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EAST COAST COLLECTION

Damien Hirst
THE STYGIAN SHORE
Estimate
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,660,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
31

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EAST COAST COLLECTION

Damien Hirst
THE STYGIAN SHORE
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,660,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Damien Hirst
B.1965
THE STYGIAN SHORE
glass, stainless steel, steel, aluminum, nickel, bismuth and cast resin, colored plaster, and painted pills with dry transfers
72 by 156 by 4 in. 182.9 by 396.2 by 10.2 cm.
Executed in 2007.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

A monumental altarpiece to modern medicine, The Stygian Shore sees Damien Hirst lampoon our blind faith in the restorative power of life-giving drugs. Presenting rows of metal and plaster pills on mirrored shelves, the work assumes a rigorous formal order, arranged according to an indecipherable system that parodies the compulsive human desire to organize, classify and control the things we fear most in our bid to evade mortality. Indeed, the simple permanence of the pills, which unlike the real thing will of course not dissolve once they are ingested, reflects the feeling of the eternal which the promise of pharmaceutical products espouses. In Hirst’s words: “Real pills decay. They rot. They're made to dissolve in your body. Plus they're full of toxic substances.” (The artist quoted in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, On the Way to Work, London, 2001, p. 116)

In contrast to the happy promise of recovery and redemption implied by many of Hirst’s other cabinets, which see the artist arrange brightly colored pills to indicate the promise of salvation, The Stygian Shore suggests a malady beyond redemption. Executed nearly a decade after the first Pill Cabinets, which date from the end of the 1990s, The Stygian Shore can be seen a logical step in the progression of one of Hirst’s most iconic series. Born of the Medicine Cabinets, rows of empty pharmaceutical packaging presented in rudimentary MDF and glass vitrines, the Pill Cabinets debuted in 2000 at Gagosian Galley in New York as part of Hirst’s celebrated show, Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings. Unlike their predecessors, these new works placed great emphasis on the process and precision of their manufacture, their cool aesthetic echoing the mechanical production of pharmaceutical products. Furthermore, taken solely as an aesthetic object, there is an unabashed beauty to the work which was entirely absent from the Medicine Cabinets. Individually cast and painted, the contents of the boxes are now on view, pills duplicated repeatedly on mirrored surfaces in a Minimalist glass vitrine. Evoking comparisons with the restrained simplicity and elegance of Donald Judd’s stacks, as well as a conceptual and aesthetic comparison with Jeff Koons’s Jim Beam Train, which places a similar emphasis on manufactured perfection, and renders impotent and function-less its contents in a similar fashion to Hirst's pills, the Pill Cabinets elevate the mundane to the realm of high art.

However, Hirst’s purpose here is not simply aesthetic, but rather to hold a mirror to our collective response and aversion to death. Like the traditional motif of the memento mori, the pills become a constant reminder of our fragility and mortality, of our desperation to survive. The reflective surfaces also visually implicate the viewer in the facile struggle for survival which gives The Stygian Shore its conceptual bent, and the razor-sharp edges of the shelves imply a degree of danger inherent in the process of self-medication. Even the title plays with this juxtaposition of death and the possibility of survival. The Stygian Shore refers to the banks of the Styx, the river of death which separated Earth from the Underworld in Greek mythology, and the very place where Achilles’s mother submerged her son in the river, rendering him invulnerable except for the heel by which she held him. Achilles of course became the great hero of the Greek armies during the Trojan war, but as immortalized in the Iliad, he is eventually killed by the cowardly Paris, who pierces his heel with an arrow. Even with divine protection, Achilles could not survive, and in an age where medicine has supplanted organized religion as the locus of man’s hope of recovery, and individual pills and drugs have replaced specific saints for the resolution of physical complaints, Hirst highlights the incapacity of both to reliably resolve our ailments. This blind faith has always irked the artist. As he has said: “I can’t understand why most people believe in medicine and don’t believe in art, without questioning either.” (Damien Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London, 2005, p. 24)

Confronting the dichotomies of life and death, science and religion, which have preoccupied Hirst throughout his provocative and wildly successful career, the present work is a conceptually rigorous and aesthetically astounding example from Damien Hirst’s most desirable series. Conflating religion and myth, the work conjures the sense of a modern-day Wunderkammer filled with an encyclopedia of medicine arranged with a rigorous formality. Emblematizing the tablets and pills, Hirst mocks our societal reliance upon them, and even offers an alternative: “I’ve always really loved this idea of art, maybe, you know, curing people.” (Damien Hirst quoted in Ibid., p. 25)

Representing a visual analogue to the human body, with each pill serving a specific function in the resolution of various bodily complaints, the piece epitomizes Hirst’s idea that “you've got all these individual elements inside a cabinet related to organs inside a body." (The artist quoted in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, On the Way to Work, London, 2001, p. 25) The resulting works are monumental altarpieces to modern medicine, deifying its life-giving capabilities. In the vacuum left by the gradual erosion of organized religious practices and specific saints to be worshipped for the resolution of individual physical complaints, pills and drugs have become a new belief system upon which we can rest our hopes and dreams of survival.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York