Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Serenity, 2007, is an exquisite example of Damien Hirst's series of Kaleidoscope Paintings. Presenting a myriad of delicate iridescent butterfly wings against a clear backdrop, the work is both visually delectable and conceptually profound. The weightlessness and fragility of the butterfly’s wings is blurred into a shimmering abstraction that investigates notions of transience and vulnerability. Commenting on their deeper, bitter-sweet meaning, Hirst describes them as ‘pathways through the darkness’ able to propulse the viewer into an imaginary space between life and death (Damien Hirst, quoted in Amie Corry, ‘Light in the Darkness’, Damien Hirst: The Complete Psalm Paintings, London, 2015, p. 11). A one of a kind contemporary vanitas, the present canvas departs from the stained glass window design which inspired many works from this series.

    Whilst the thematic trope of life and death has continuously underpinned the conceptual core of Hirst’s work since his graduation from Goldsmith’s University, London, the artist’s butterfly paintings first emerged in 1989. Hirst confessed that the genesis of these works happened almost by chance: ‘I [wanted] it to look like an artist’s studio where he had had coloured canvases wet and the butterflies had landed in them. I remember painting something white once and flies landing on it, thinking “Fuck!” but then thinking it was funny. This idea of an artist trying to make a monochrome and being fucked up by flies landing in the paint or something like that… The death of an insect that still has this really optimistic beauty of a wonderful thing’ (Damien Hirst, quoted in Mirta D’Argenzio, ‘A Different Kind of Love: Damien Hirst Interviewed’, Damien Hirst: The Agony and the Ecstasy, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, 2004, p. 83).

    Representative of Hirst’s artistic tone, mediating levity and irony, Serenity encapsulates the artist’s exquisite command of balance and subtle thematic complexities. Innocuously charming at first glance, the present work takes on sombre associations upon closer inspection, transcending the beautiful appearance of the butterflies’ colourful wings to bring attention to their crystallised state. The butterfly’s life, punctuated by the cycles of being a caterpillar, morphing into a pupa finally becoming a butterfly is a powerful metaphor for life itself, containing within it the potent mysteries of death, reincarnation and resurrection. In Hirst’s own words, ‘You have to find universal triggers, everyone's frightened of glass, everyone's frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies’ (Damien Hirst, quoted in Gordon Burn and Stuart Morgan eds., I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One To One, Always, Forever, Now, London, 1997, p. 132).

  • 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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signed and titled 'Damien Hirst (Serenity)' on the reverse
butterflies and household gloss on canvas, in artist's frame
diameter 223.5 cm (87 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2007.

£500,000 - 700,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019