Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Damien Hirst, 'Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot)', Lot 20

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 February

  • Provenance

    Jay Jopling, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘The movement sort of implies life’ – Damien Hirst

    An enthralling tondo that transports the viewer into a vortex of colour and movement, Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot), 1998, forms part of Damien Hirst’s celebrated series of Spin Paintings, which he first conceptualised in his Brixton studio in 1992, and tentatively introduced to the public as a participative method in 1993. In the summer of that year, Hirst and his peer Angus Fairhurst – both dressed as clowns – set up a ‘Spin Art’ stall at the London street fair A Fête Worse than Death, organised by Joshua Compston and featuring works by Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas. Hirst and Fairhurst’s stall encouraged passersby to create their own spin paintings by pouring variably coloured paint onto rapidly rotating canvases, producing a number of unique kaleidoscopic surfaces that, in their finished state, were sold for one pound each. It was only a year later that Hirst began creating Spin Paintings with the intent of growing them as a prominent branch of his infamously serial artistic practice. That year, he commissioned a scaled-up version of the machine he had used at the fair, and began to work on tondos – which now occupy the majority of the series. Calling comparisons with Jackson Pollock's infamous gestural process, Hirst’s application of paint combined with the machine’s energetic spin blurred the boundaries between genres and media. Created in 1998 as an early formulation of the series, the present work vividly embodies Hirst’s tongue-in-cheek attitude to art historical tradition through a brilliant process-based approach, lingering between painting and performance.

    Enforcing his tendency to elaborate discreet rules for all his self-described ‘endless’ series of works, Hirst’s spins are often thematic and specific in designation. Like all other paintings from the series, Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot) bears an idiosyncratically elongated title that begins with ‘Beautiful’ and ends with ‘Painting’. Composed of amorphous masses of ochre, green, red and blue that take over the surface of the canvas entirely, the composition transforms into a wondrous and vivacious explosion of colour that departs from Hirst’s usual intentness on order, repetition, and quasi-scientific formulaism. Unlike his infamous Medicine Cabinets, Spot and Kaleidoscope Paintings, Hirst’s spins are controlled solely by the motion of a machine, which he is only able to manipulate to a limited degree. They are ‘childish… in the positive sense of the word’, the artist has said (Damien Hirst, quoted in Stuart Morgan, ‘An Interview with Damien Hirst’, 1995, reproduced online). They conjure a gem or candy-like visual universe that seems to spin forevermore – even in their final state. The circular shape of the canvas furthermore brings to mind Hirst’s infamous pattern of the spot, which invades a number of his series, namely his eponymously titled body of Spot Paintings.

    The result of daring spontaneity and dizzying movement, Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot) is evocative of the movement found in Abstract Expressionist canvases, while at the same time recalling Robert Delaunay’s masterful circular compositions, which equally appear to swirl and whirl with unbridled energy. A tondo of colourful charisma enmeshing a number of striking hues, the present work boasts a comparable painterly constitution. Yet the wildness of its spin, paired with a revealingly feral title, suggests a tangible atmosphere. In this sense, one is reminded of Henri Rousseau’s The Dream, which features a nude woman reclining in flora and fauna, pried on by two wide-eyed lions. Though Rousseau’s picture entails scenic verisimilitude, and therefore contrasts with the present work’s full abstraction, its colours and suggestive angles convey a similar environment – beautifully tropical.

  • 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

The Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More

Ο ◆20

Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot)

signed, titled and dated ‘Damien Hirst Beautiful tropical, jungle painting (with pink snot) 1998’ on the reverse
household gloss on canvas
diameter 215 cm (84 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1998.

£270,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £350,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 February 2020