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  • Provenance

    The Artist
    Private Collection, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    Through the butterfly, Hirst finds a new way to approach those most enduring of themes – beauty, religion and mortality. His interest in the insect is longstanding, dating back to the very early years of his career. Whether pressed into household paint or arranged in kaleidoscopic form, his work with the butterfly, as with other species, has attracted both controversy and wonderment.

    The butterfly was at the heart of In and Out of Love (1991), Hirst’s first solo exhibition in an ex-travel agent’s office in Woodstock Street, London. The show was spread over two floors; one where butterflies were born and fed, and another where the deceased insect was set into wetly painted canvases. Fearlessly approaching mortality, the work resonates with much of the artist’s work. As he recounts, ‘I was taught to confront things you can’t avoid. Death is one of those things. To live in a society where you’re trying not to look at it is stupid because looking at death throws us back into life.’ (Damien Hirst in Elizabeth Day, ‘Art is Childish and Childlike,' The Guardian, 26 September 2010).

    In 2001, Hirst began to focus his attention on the butterfly’s wing. Arranging these already intricate forms into yet more elaborate patterns, he began his iconic 'Kaleidoscope' paintings. It is to this body of work that Veneration belongs. Drawing on the animal’s natural symmetry and confounding beauty, the artist arranges a series of concentric rings that spread like rippling water from the centre of the canvas. Celebratory in effect, the piece is aptly titled; enlivened by an explosive energy, the work joyously bursts forth.

    Veneration is a practice common to Roman Catholicism, in which saints are honoured, frequently through interaction with outward signs. Raised by a mother of Catholic heritage, this tradition remains an important influence on Hirst’s work; he relates, ‘I think I like big issues, but I don't believe in God or religion. Having said that, I was brought up Catholic till I was 12 – basically indoctrinated – so there are lots of things in there that can't come out.’ (Damien Hirst in Elizabeth Day, ‘Art is Childish and Childlike,' The Guardian, 26 September 2010). The present lot is enlivened by this heritage, approaching the natural world with a sense of religious wonder. It is an apotheosis of organic life, although one haunted by morbidity.

    A potent symbol of resurrection, the butterfly is itself laden with religious associations. As Christ is said to have lain entombed before ascension, so the butterfly emerges resplendent from its deathlike cocoon state. Yet Christianity is by no means the only religion towards which Veneration gestures. In its composition, not least the circular form at its centre, the piece recalls a mandala, a significant symbol in Buddhist and Hindu belief. Drawing together these strands of ritual, Veneration is a richly symbolic piece in which the artist brings his own preoccupations into conversation with histories of religious thought.

  • 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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butterflies, household gloss on canvas
canvas 182.8 x 182.8 cm (71 7/8 x 71 7/8 in.)
framed 223.2 x 223.2 cm (87 7/8 x 87 7/8 in.)

Signed, titled and dated '2007 Damien Hirst "Veneration"' on the reverse.

£450,000 - 650,000 ♠ †

Sold for £482,500

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm