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

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    You have to find universal triggers, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies.


    (Damien Hirst quoted in D. Hirst and G. Burn, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, London, 1997, p. 132)

    The alpha male of contemporary British Art and one of the leading artists of his generation, the wide-ranging practice of Damien Hirst continues to challenge the boundaries between art, culture and science. Through his paintings, sculptures and installations, Hirst considers fundamental questions concerning the meaning of life and the fragility of biological existence. Confronting the viewer with the harsh reality of mortality, he “manages to be frank about death without sliding into morbidity. Going
    even further than the most uncompromising painter of a vanitas still life, he presents the viewer with the incontrovertible reality of extinction” (R. Cork, “Injury Time,” The British Art Show 4 , 1995. p. 13). Nowhere is this practice more masterfully exemplified than in his Butterfly Painting series.

    The present work is composed of two equal sized square canvases, each of which is covered with a layer of monotone household gloss paint in which actual butterflies are suspended. The canvas on the left is white, on the right blue, an oppositional relationship evocative of that which Hirst sees between black and white. As the artist himself explains, “I’ve always been interested in the split between mind and body, the one and the other, the difference between art and life, life and death, like black and white ... I think of life and death as black and white. If life is white, black is death. Trying to explain or imagine death is like trying to imagine black by only using white. There’s no way you can get to it, it’s like the same thing but opposite. This is life and death isn’t” (A. Dannatt, “Damien Hirst: Life’s like this, then it stops,” Flash Art, no.169, March-April 1993, p.63).

    The opposition between light and dark, the vibrant life of the butterflies and the apparent reality of their death in this work yields a sense of tension. Combined with the title itself, Night Follows Day reiterates Hirst’s interest in the biological and aesthetic cycles of creation and destruction. In the artist’s own words, “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” (D. Hirst and G. Burn, On the Way to Work, London, 2001, p. 21).

  • 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.

    View More Works


Night Follows Day

Diptych: butterflies and household gloss on canvas.
Overall 102 1/2 x 174 in. (260.4 x 442 cm). Each canvas 71 3/4 x 71 3/4 in. (182.2 x 182.2 cm.)
First canvas signed, dated and indicated “’Night Follows Day’ Damien Hirst panel 1/2” on the reverse; second canvas titled, dated and indicated “’Dawn Harvest’ 2007 panel 2/2” on the reverse; each also signed “D. Hirst” and stamped on the stretcher bar.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York