Damien Hirst - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    White Cube, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    I think I’ve got an obsession with death, but I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid. You can’t have one without the other.


    Damien Hirst has often discussed his affinity for using the duality of the human experience as his inspiration for the concepts he executes in his work. His most famous subject is often considered to be the fight between life and death; however he often draws from the complexities of love against loss, as well as the inescapable comparison of beauty versus decay. Hirst’s butterfly works are a testament to his ability to celebrate the complexities of the human experience by combining his most famous concepts into one canvas.

    The butterflies are strategically arranged across the canvas and suspended in time and space with household gloss, paralyzing and showcasing the ephemeral beauty of life. Each butterfly wing shimmers like a facet of a beautifully designed stain glass window mosaic; each wing frames the next, coming together as one to symbolize the brevity of life, and its fragile nature.

    This beautifully constructed and flawlessly executed work has captured the manifestation of the most subliminal fear in human existence, death, and Hirst has skillfully manipulated the death of these butterflies in order to capture a shockingly stunning, larger than life experience of the glory and virtue of the fleeting moments in life. Like the beating of butterfly wings, the canvas breaths life into the room, the shimmering facets that emulate the effects of lapis, citrine, opal, and ruby on the viewer are intoxicating. The title evokes both the tranquil state that is produced by being in the presence of such beauty as well as the fatal state of the butterflies themselves.

  • Artist Biography

    Damien Hirst

    British • 1965

    There is no other contemporary artist as maverick to the art market as Damien Hirst. Foremost among the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group of provocative artists who graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in the late 1980s, Hirst ascended to stardom by making objects that shocked and appalled, and that possessed conceptual depth in both profound and prankish ways.

    Regarded as Britain's most notorious living artist, Hirst has studded human skulls in diamonds and submerged sharks, sheep and other dead animals in custom vitrines of formaldehyde. In tandem with Cheyenne Westphal, now Chairman of Phillips, Hirst controversially staged an entire exhibition directly for auction with 2008's "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," which collectively totalled £111 million ($198 million).

    Hirst remains genre-defying and creates everything from sculpture, prints, works on paper and paintings to installation and objects. Another of his most celebrated series, the 'Pill Cabinets' present rows of intricate pills, cast individually in metal, plaster and resin, in sterilized glass and steel containers; Phillips New York showed the largest of these pieces ever exhibited in the United States, The Void, 2000, in May 2017.

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Butterflies and household gloss on canvas.
91 1/4 x 127 1/4 x 5 in. (231.8 x 323.2 x 12.7 cm.)
Signed “Damien Hirst” twice and titled “Tranquility” on the reverse.

$1,200,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,202,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York