Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Thursday, November 18, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "I once said that the spot paintings could be what art looks like viewed through an imaginary microscope."
    —Damien Hirst 

    Executed in 2005, Loperamide belongs to Damien Hirst’s Pharmaceutical paintings, the first and most acclaimed group of the thirteen sub-series within the artist’s renowned Spot Paintings. Among his most recognizable and prolific bodies of works, the Spot Paintings comprise over 1,300 paintings created between 1986 and 2011. Minimalistic yet simultaneously rich with abstraction, depth, and conceptual detail, each painting contains rows of identically sized and brightly colored circles that appear in stark contrast to a white or cream background. Oscillating between art and science, creation and mechanization, Loperamide encapsulates Hirst’s notorious practice of defying categorization in the midst of creating a singular artistic vocabulary with universal and timeless appeal.  


    Hirst’s Endless Series


    Remarking that “the Spot Paintings were an endless series” Hirst found infinite artistic possibilities within the colorful grid-like structures of spots. In 1986 Hirst painted his first dots on board. By 1988, the dots were the subject of Hirst’s exhibition Freeze. The series enthralled the art world and Hirst captured international attention for his bold new style of artmaking, a departure from his former reliance on painting and collage techniques. Hirst yearned to erase all traces of the human hand with the Spot Paintings, creating a universal style that did not rely on already established forms in art. Hirst never tired of the Spot Paintings, continuing the series for over fifteen years before displaying 300 of the works simultaneously in several Gagosian Gallery locations around the world. The never-ending series continued with Hirst leaving the door open for future iterations of the Spot Paintings.


    Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Pharmacy), 1952-53. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © VAGA at ARS, NY
    Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Pharmacy), 1952-53. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © VAGA at ARS, NY

     "The random and infinite color series within the ‘Pharmaceutical’ paintings is integral to the works.” Hirst explains that, “mathematically, with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art. Which is the harmony of where color can exist on its own, interacting with other colors in a perfect format." —Damien Hirst

    Fusing Art and Science


    Named after a prescription drug and over-the-counter medicine, Loperamide consists of eighty-eight uniformly sized circles arranged in an eleven by eight grid. For Hirst, the Spot Paintings constitute “a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies’ scientific approach to life.”1 Hirst constructs each work mechanically, ensuring that the spots within a single painting are the same size and shape. The size of the gaps in the painting must also be equal to the diameter of the spots. Hirst notably uses household gloss to paint the spots, as its pure, sterile complexion recalls a medicinal workplace. The work’s repetitive nature at once suggests automated production and mesmerizes the viewer. His clinical method to the painting process emphasizes the strong intersection of art and science within the Pharmaceutical series works, similarly seen in Joseph Cornell’s Pharmacies, 1943-1953, which explored the use of medicine within spiritual and creative belief systems.

    "I love color. I feel it inside me. It gives me a buzz."
    —Damien Hirst 

    An Infinite Harmony of Color


    Like all of Hirst’s Spot Paintings, Loperamide captivates the viewer through its unique presentation of color. Hirst explains of the series, “I want people to look at it and look at the colors and think ‘Wow – what a great object.’ And I really don’t want them to think about anything else”.2  No color repeats within a single Spot Painting. The colors are explicitly linked yet also distinct from one another, with harmony and balance central to the composition. Hirst’s explorations with color recall the grand Color Charts of Gerhard Richter and the numerous studies by Josef Albers, though Hirst asserts that the similarities to these works extend only to form, not meaning or comprehension. Hirst’s work, by contrast, is devoid of a singular interpretation. British writer and novelist Michael Bracewell describes works such as Loperamide to be “untethered to any sense of painterly ‘meaning’”.3 Hirst agrees, declaring of the Spot Paintings, “they are what they are. Perfectly dumb paintings which feel absolutely right.”4 

    1 Gordon Burn, Morgan Stuart and Damien Hirst, Damien Hirst: I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, New York, 2010, 246. this book, w
    2 Gordon Burn and Damien Hirst, On the Way to Work, New York, 2001, p. 83
    3 Michael Bracewell, “Art Without the Angst,” The Complete Spot Paintings. 1986-2011. Damien Hirst, London, 2014, Ww.

    4 D. Hirst, I want to spent the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always forever now. London 1997, p. 246

    • Provenance

      White Cube, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Jason Beard and Millicent Wilner, eds., The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986–2011, Damien Hirst, London, 2013, pp. 338, 845 (illustrated, p. 338)

    • 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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household gloss on canvas
63 x 45 in. (160 x 114.3 cm)
Executed in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $504,000

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session, New York
1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York Auction 18 November 2021