Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, Connecticut
    Phillips de Pury, New York, November 7, 2011, lot 10
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Gagosian Gallery, Damien Hirst: Superstition, February 22 – April 5, 2007, p. 45 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Inspired by the surface decoration on a Victorian tea tray, Damien Hirst’s Kaleidoscope series began in 2001 and present lot, created 5 years later displays Hirst’s mastery of his technique. The Crown of Life, 2006 is comprised of Hirst’s most desired medium; butterflies. Appearing throughout Hirst’s various bodies of work, butterflies interest him because of their exquisite beauty which remains, even in death. Constructed in the shape of a classical church, stained glass window, the butterflies lie in a very precise pattern to mimic the sun illuminated, colored glass.

    Hirst’s Kaleidoscope paintings are created by laying colorful butterfly wings into household paint and arranging them according to a very specific pattern, laid out and executed by Hirst. While the complete series is inspired by the religious iconography of stained glass, some of the pieces even reference specific, existing windows in churches throughout London. The spiritual nature of present lot and of the series is conveyed through not only the title, The Crown of Life, but also the symbolism of the butterfly. The "Crown of Life" refers directly to a line in the Bible, James 1:12 which states that those who remain steadfast under trial will be blessed to receive the crown of life promised to those who love God. This promise of life and resurrection is illustrated in the physical life of a butterfly. In antiquity, the image of the butterfly emerging form the chrysalis stood for the soul leaving the body at death. In Christian art the butterfly is a symbol of the resurrected human soul. The life-cycle of the caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly symbolizes life, death and resurrection. As Hirst explains, “The death of an insect …. still has this really optimistic beauty,” which can be seen within the present lot. The Kaleidoscope paintings are created with only the iridescent wings of the butterfly, according to Hirst, this is done strategically to separate the dead butterflies from “the real thing.” (Damien Hirst in Damien Hirst, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, 2005, p. 135) Hirst who has explained his obsession with death as “a celebration of life rather than something morbid,” strives artistically to find the beauty within the gruesome. (Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, On the Way to Work, 2001, p. 21) The fragility of the natural world is clearly exposed in the present lot, laid out for the viewer to admire the permanence or hopeful non-permanence of death. The Crown of Life, 2006 beautifully conveys Hirst's obsession with color and light and the dichotomy of life and death, elegance and obscenity, immortality and extinction.

  • 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


Disintegration - The Crown of Life

signed twice, titled and dated “Damien Hirst, "The Crown of Life," 2006” on the reverse
butterflies and household gloss on canvas, in artist's frame
117 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. (299.1 x 200 cm.)
Executed in 2006.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,150,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 5 PM EST