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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I want the viewer to do a lot of work and feel uncomfortable.They should be made to feel responsible for their own view of the world rather than look at an artist’s view and be critical of it,” (D. Hirst, I Want to Spend the Rest of my Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, NewYork, 1997, p.16).
    Damien Hirst imposes a confrontation with the bare essence of human life and structures of belief. Art acts as a mirror, forcing one to re-examine oneself in relation to the existing world. Thus, Hirst’s work functions conceptually, rather than aesthetically. Formal discussions are replaced by theoretical dialogue. The complicated subject of death – Hirst’s ongoing theme – allows individual pieces to hold complex profundity.The current lot, Beautiful ArtemisThor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting highlights in its title historical systems of human belief. References to gods of Germanic and Norse Paganism and Hellenic and Roman Mythology contrast the transience of the human body - as suggested by the imagery of the skull.
    In reference to his interpretation to the driving factors behind human existence, Hirst writes, “Well, I remember I was thinking that there were four important things in life; religion, love, art and science. At their best, they’re all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well, but they help. Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all rightin the end. I suppose I just want people to think, mainly. In this instance, I wanted people to think about the combination of science and religion, basically. People tend to think of them as two very separate things, one cold and clinical, the other emotional and loving and warm. I wanted to leap over those boundaries and give you something that looks clinical and cold but has all the religious, metaphysical connotations, too. It’s the perfect time now because the church is messing up so badly” (D. Hirst, New Religion, London, 2006, p. 5).
    Throughout his career, Hirst’s philosophical discussions of humanity evolve. His works present such intellectual change manifested in physical materials.The current lot, Beautiful ArtemisThor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting, presents as its basis a reference to mythology, religion, and the physical human body. In depth subjects are broached in a straight forward, uncomplicated manner. The work serves as a mirror – the viewer realizes not the theoretical positions of the artist, but rather his or her current position - physically and ideologically - within the status of the surrounding environment. “Well, science really fucks religion, doesn’t it? It almost can’t help it. It fucked it from the start. When science came on the scene, everyone was thinking that’s it for religion, and that religious people would end up like flat-earthers. But, no, religion attracts people still. Now, there’s a real mystery. It’s amazing how many people come to religion when you think of it. Mind you, I think, if they can’t get the answers they are looking for, people just change the way they look at the questions.That’s true for science and religion, actually, but much more so for religion. Facts become parables or metaphors.What was accepted as an essential truth becomes a metaphorical truth, and the religious belief persists” (D. Hirst, p. 14). Four skulls represent four gods - Artemis, the Hellenic goddess of virginity and hunt,Thor, the Germanic and Norse pagan god of thunder, Neptune, the Roman god of water and the sea, and Odin, chief god in Norse paganism.The contrast of mythical gods and human skulls elicits discussion as to the cyclical interpretation of human life and the possibility of the afterlife.Through the present lot, Hirst suggests the viewer rethink the balance of human transience and spirituality within the respective beliefs in practice.
    Damien Hirst’s signature imagery of the skull elicits anthropological as well as theoretical dialogue regarding the humanity. In the case of the current lot, the skull presents the physicality of man in opposition to metaphysical views of existence – i.e. divinity and spirituality. Unspecific to personality – the skull allots poetic interpretation applicable to humanity in totality.The present lot, Beautiful ArtemisThor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting combines Hirst’s common motif of the skull with his specific technique of painting utilized in his Spin Paintings. Combination of previously realized ideas in his work contextualizes the artist’s pieces within the grand scheme of the progression of his career.Thus, the work is conceptually linked within the succession of his oeuvre. The dimensions and creation process of Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting create a demanding presence for the painting. Measuring twenty feet wide by eight feet high, the painting dwarfs the viewer.The method of paint application is evident in the technique utilized to achieve the effect of the “spin painting.” In reference to his focus on process in art, Hirst states, “The process of painting is alive. It’s the end result that is dead. It’s as if the artist is the animal” (D. Hirst, 1997, p. 64).
    Gaining initial attention in the art world with his 1988 Freeze exhibition, Damien Hirst went on to dominate the British art scene of the 1990s. The artist continues to produce psychological, emotional bodies of work while holding on to his conceptual premise of life and death. As initially begun in the execution of Freeze, the British artist continues to seek unconventional materials and processes to explore his concepts and theories of humanity.
    Damien Hirst married his oeuvre to fields of art beyond the fine arts, building a relationship between his work and the commercial andmainstream worlds.The artist is reciprocally acknowledged by artists of varying fields - of recent, hip-hop star Jay-Z. Blue Magic, a track from the rapper’s tenth album, American Gangster, features in its music video the present lot, Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting.The scale and dynamic composition of the painting provide visual interest and excitement to support the performance of the hip-hop superstar. Damien Hirst proves to exist on an international level of fame that overrides boundaries in the arts and entertainment worlds.
    Hirst balances fantasy and an overt reference to mortality in his work. Of great influence to the artist is the work of early Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch of the fifteenth and sixteenth century. “I like the chaos in Hieronymus Bosch. It is fantastic and wonderful in one sense.The paintings are a celebration of painting and the activity in the paintings is optimistic, but the actual meanings behind the objects are negative and depressing. It is like when an aeroplane explodes. There is a lot of energy when it is exploding and a lot of death afterwards, but it is that point when it is exploding that interests me” (D. Hirst, 1997, p. 17).
    A similar dichotomy to that of Bosch is present in the work of Damien Hirst. Utilized in the current lot is an “explosion” of paint building up to a chaotic, fanatical moment, yet balanced by the mortal image of the skull. An opposition of movement and stagnancy within the composition illustrates Hirst’s quote “I try to say something and deny it at the same time” (D. Hirst, 48).
    Drawing from another European influence, Damien Hirst’s use of skulls references the sixteenth and seventeenth century vanitas, or still life paintings common in Flanders and the Netherlands. Vanitas paintings often included the theme of death, as exemplified by artists such as Jacques de Gheyn the Elder.The paintings were meant to create a somber view of the world, the imagery served as a reminder that all things living must one day perish. Illustrated in the paintings is the believed transience of life and the reminder of the inevitable loss. Death as unavoidable was made most obvious by the depiction of skulls. Appearing commonly in vanitas compositions as well were hourglasses, extinguished candles, and flowers. Reference of vanitas dates as far back to Biblical times, “Vanity of vanities, says theTeacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, New Revised Standard Version). Strict adherence to God’s laws was commonly exercised in the accompanying era, serving as a prime factor of variation between the fifteenth and sixteenth century work and that of Damien Hirst.
    Contemporary artist Damien Hirst uses art to examine systems of belief in practice by humanity. Rather than imposing particular theories upon his audience, the artist pushes the viewer to re-examine his or her personal existence in relation to the relevant surrounding environment.Within the present lot, Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting, allusions to Christianity, paganism, and mythology cross to create questions of the metaphysical idea of the afterlife. Grounding debate is the transient imagery of the skull – highlighting the inevitability of death. As simplistically summarized,
    “The delight of Damien Hirst’s work arises from his acceptance of the inexplicable. Alongside irony comes awe” (S. Kent, Shark Infested Waters –The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 1990’s, London, 1994, p. 38).

  • 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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Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting

Gloss household paint on canvas.
96 x 240 in. (243.8 x 609.6 cm).

Signed, titled and dated “Damien Hirst ‘Beautiful ArtemisThor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting’ 2007” on the reverse; signed “Damien Hirst” on the stretcher.

$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York