Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Damien Hirst’s renowned Cabinets series, begun in 1988 have become synonymous with contemporary conceptual art. The earliest of these works featuring meticulously placed pills, bottles and boxes of medication arranged inside of a wall-bound cabinet, are both symbols of the depths of the human body and of the connection between art and science. The renowned British artist furthered this connection when he created a diamond-encrusted human skull in his celebrated work, For the Love of God from 2007, exhibited the same year at White Cube. A few years following the success of this work, Hirst embarked on a new set of Cabinets, each of which seamlessly marries these two ambitious projects: the pharmaceutical works and the dazzling skull. The present lot belongs to the latter series, featuring a delicate display of precious stones inside a gold-plated stainless steel cabinet. Aptly titled after human emotion, Tearful is a paradigm of the artist’s seminal practice in its arresting beauty.

    Beyond its emotionally charged title, Tearful is less a direct tribute to the fragility of human life as compared to the cabinets of decades before. Without the recognizable brand names of medications, the viewer is left to more deeply contemplate the objects in front of them. The study of life’s fleeting nature is realized in the formal qualities of the work rather than its specific contents. As Rudi Fuchs espoused in his discussion of Hirst’s work, “[his] art is concerned with love and fear, with death, malady, physical decay, medical practice and pharmaceutical illusion. But for all its compelling imagery, his work is not sinister…The inevitable proximity of death is the most real thing in human life. Fear of death is a more powerful emotion than love or lust. To some extent fear of death keeps us alive” (Rudi Fuchs, “Victory Over Decay” in For the Love of God: The Making of a Diamond Skull, exh. cat., White Cube, London, 2007).

    The compelling imagery featured in Tearful is the meticulously placed cubic zirconia stones, which themselves are reflected on the surface of the steel cabinet that houses them. The choice to replace pharmaceutical objects with diamonds was a pivotal one in Hirst’s oeuvre. As he explained of the appeal of these stones and his decision to use them, “Any great art work or object gives more than it takes. The amazing thing about diamonds is that they take light and throw it back at you, although they seem to throw more light out than they take in” (The Artist, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Epiphany: A Conversation with Damien Hirst” in End of an Era, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2012, n.p.).

    The work’s luminosity is further heightened by the use of gold-plated stainless steel to encase the diamonds, a departure from the silver stainless steel used in other cabinets. In perfect harmony, the clear stones emit a shine that bounces off of the gold background, serving as a unique study in the formal qualities of metallic tones. It is also the uniquely intimate size of the present lot that offers a more delicate depiction of the artist’s studies in life and death. In a scale imitating a wall-bound cabinet that one would find in their own home, the work invites the viewer to look even more closely at its contents. Together, each of these formal elements makes Tearful a stunning example of the Cabinets for which Hirst is best known, taking the artist’s prolific oeuvre to new formal and emotional heights.

  • 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



incised with the artist's signature, title and date "Tearful Damien Hirst 2010" on the reverse
gold-plated stainless steel, glass and cubic zirconia
22 x 27 7/8 x 3 1/4 in. (56 x 71 x 8.3 cm.)
Executed in 2010.

$600,000 - 800,000 

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 15 November 2017