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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “So I’ve always been drawn to series and pairs. A unique thing is quite a frightening object.” DAMIEN HIRST

    Composed of two equal sized canvases pasted with household gloss paint onto which dead butterflies are suspended, Night Follows Day epitomizes the challenging and direct style of its canonical maker Damien Hirst.

    Having first achieved recognition in 1988 for his conception of Freeze, an exhibition in a disused warehouse which showed his work and that of his friends and fellow students at Goldsmiths College, Hirst has since gone on to become one of the most influential artists of his generation, winning numerous accolades and featuring in exhibitions worldwide. Most notably he was awarded the Turner prize in 1995 for the work Mother and Child Divided and in 2011 he was the focus of a retrospective at the Tate Modern.

    Throughout his career, the artist has examined the subject of death. In fact to Hirst, death is somewhat of a fixation: "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." Examining morality in a direct and challenging manner, Hirst’s works are both poignant and highly unsettling, bringing viewers to ponder life’s temporality and purpose. Little wonder then that alongside being one of Britain’s most noted artists, he is also one of the most controversial.

    Since his early 1991 work In and Out of Love (in which an entire room in disused Travel Agents, filled with hundreds of tropical butterflies, which were left to hatch eat and mate before eventually dying) butterflies have been a central feature of Hirst’s oeuvre, appearing in numerous works of the artist’s pieces in a plethora of manners.
    Hirst’s use of butterflies hold a number of rich connotations. When describing the significance of In Out of Love the artist stated, "It was about love, kind of whether love existed or something like that. Upstairs... the white paintings were like: this is real love, it is like butterflies flying around in a good environment but inside there is no colour... When I went downstairs, I said that I wanted this to look like it was alive at one time. I want it to look like an artists studio where he had coloured canvases wet and the butterflies had landed in them... This idea of an artist trying to make a monochrome and being fucked up by flies landing in the paint... Then you get the beauty of the butterfly, but it is actually something horrible... The death of an insect that still has this really optimistic beauty of a wonderful thing."

    Indeed with their fragile natures and short life spans, Hirst’s butterflies direct viewers to consider life’s fragility. At the same time, these insects also recall birthday cards, the Victorian pursuit of Lepidopterists (which is the collection of butterflies) and spirituality, for in many cultures the butterfly is symbolic of the soul.

    In Night Follows Day, allusions to morality and spirituality are particularly prominent. The oppositional relationship between the blue and white of the canvases holds ties to Hirst’s understanding that opposites - in particular oppositional colours - are emblematic of life and death. 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) Meanwhile, the diptych nature of the work holds similarities to an altarpiece, thus further stressing the pieces ties to religious symbolism.

    Through its rich and complex symbolism Night Follows Day exemplifies Hirst’s masterly skill at drawing upon rich cultural associations to create startling and thought-provoking works. On this count the work stands as a striking exempla of the artist’s force and talent.

    “I wanted this to look like it was alive at one time. I want it to look like an artists studio where he had coloured canvases wet and the butterflies had landed in them... This idea of an artist trying to make a monochrome and it being fucked up by flies landing in the paint...” DAMIEN HIRST

  • 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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Night Follows Day (Diptych)

diptych: butterflies and household gloss on canvas
overall 260.4 x 442 cm. (102 1/2 x 174 in.)
each canvas 182.2 x 182.2 cm. (71 3/4 x 71 3/4 in.)

First canvas is titled and dated '"Night Follows Day" 2007' on the reverse. Second canvas is signed and titled '"Dawn Harvest" Damien Hirst' on the reverse. Each canvas is further signed 'D. Hirst' and stamped on the stretcher bar.

£500,000 - 700,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £578,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm