Damien Hirst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'I really like making them. And I really like the machine, and I really like the movement. Every time they’re finished, I’m desperate to do another one.'
    —Damien Hirst
    Especially notable for its arresting, explosive energy and the kaleidoscopic contrasts of orange, pinks, greens, and blues that bring its surface to life, Beautiful Tropical, Jungle Painting (with pink snot) is a paradigmatic, early example of British artist Damien Hirst’s celebrated Spin Paintings series. Capturing the energy and sense of spontaneity that characterises the series, along with themes of mechanical intervention and chance that recur across Hirst’s oeuvre, the present work records the happy collision of chance and design, generating, ‘a massive explosion of energy – full of life, colour and optimism.’i


    Beginnings of Beautiful 

    Damien Hirst embarked on the Spin Paintings in 1992, the same year that the prominent collector Charles Saatchi mounted the first of his infamous Young British Artists exhibitions, including the young artist’s formaldehyde work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living alongside works by Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, and others. Developing the concept and introducing a more participatory element, the following year Hirst and fellow YBA Angus Fairhurst set up a ‘Spin Art’ stall at the artist-led street art fair A Fête Worse than Death. Dressed as clowns with body paint applied by the iconoclastic performance artist Leigh Bowery, they invited passers-by to create their own spin paintings for one pound each. 


    Damien Hirst [Left] and Angus Fairhurst dressed as clowns at their spin painting stall, A Fête Worse than Death, Hoxton, London. Image: Guy Moberly / Alamy Stock Photo


    It was in 1994 while living in Berlin that Hirst formalised the series, introducing the tondo format more commonly associated with the Spin Paintings, and commissioning a machine made especially for the process. Mounting his first exhibition of spin drawings in the same year, the Spin Paintings quickly became a central feature of the artist’s practice, and approach to serial production included alongside examples from his Spot Paintings and iconic Natural History series in the No Sense of Absolute Corruption exhibition held at Gagosian Gallery in 1996, just two years before the execution of the present work. Over the years, the principles applied in the execution of the Spin Paintings have remained fundamentally the same: featuring long titles framed by the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘picture’, the artist pours a combination of variably coloured household emulsions directly onto the rapidly rotating canvas, producing an infinite variety of vibrantly hued and uniquely patterned surfaces mobilised by the rotations of the machine. 


    Marcel Duchamp’s Anémic cinema, 1926, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


    The Science of Colour 

    Visually recalling the hypnotic spinning motion a turntable or certain fairground attractions, the works have a conceptual lineage in Dadaist Marcel Duchamp’s kinetic collaborations, notably the optical effects that he generated with sculptural objects such as Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics), now forming part of The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection  in New York. However, while Duchamp’s focus on the mechanised and the optical attempted to remove the hand of the artist altogether, Hirst’s Spin Paintings retain a sense of vitality and individuality through the careful selection of paints and his direct application of them, drawing comparison to the energetic application of Jackson Pollock’s poured and dripped canvases.

    Composed of energetic bursts of ochre, pink, green, red, and blue that spread out across the entire surface of the large circular canvas, the composition is transformed into a dynamic and vivacious explosion of colour. Departing significantly from the meticulous and ordered application of carefully controlled pigment used in his Spot Paintings, with this body of work Hirst introduced a chaotic element of chance into his practice one that nevertheless remains bound by his quasi-scientific interest in colour and its effects. In this respect, the Spin Paintings recall Robert Delaunay’s masterful circular compositions, which are equally animated in their energetic swirls of joyous colour. Like Hirst, Delaunay too grounded his colour experiments in scientific methodology, his concept of Simultaneous Contrasts drawing particularly on the theories of 19th century French chemist Michel Eugéne Chevreul.


    Robert Delaunay, Rhythme No. 1, Musée de la Ville de Paris, Paris. Image: Universal History Archive/UIG / Bridgeman Images

    Perfectly balancing chaos and control, Beautiful Tropical, Jungle Painting (with pink snot) possesses a striking vitality, emphasised somewhat by its evocative title. Although totally non-representational, the brilliance of the colour combinations here and the suggestive intersections and angles produced in its execution convey a similarly rich and beautifully tropical environment, a space within which ‘colours participate in a primordial state where order and creation dissolve and disengage from the meditation of thought and representation, to become pure expression of the basic and vital gesture of painting and its mythology.’ii


    Collector’s Digest

    • Coming to prominence in the late 1980s as part of the group identified by collector and gallerist Charles Saatchi as a generation of 'Young British Artists’, Damien Hirst is best known for his boundary-pushing formaldehyde works, his series of medicine cabinets, and his celebrated Spin and Spot Paintings.

    • Hirst has continued to exhibit extensively since his first artist-curated show Freeze in 1988, with major retrospectives at Tate Modern in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Examples of his work can be found in major institutions worldwide including the Tate, London, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

    • No stranger to controversy, Hirst has announced his intention to burn works from his most recent project as part of an exhibition and public performance due to be held at his Newport Street Gallery towards the end of this year. 

    i Damien Hirst, quoted in ‘Damien Hirst’s monumental spin artwork in spectacular display at Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremony’, 9 August 2012, online.  
    ii Mario Codognato, ‘Warning Labels’, in Damien Hirst (exh. cat.), Naples, 2004, p. 42. 

    • Provenance

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

    • 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

Property from an Important Private Collection

Ο ◆27

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 214.3 cm (84 3/8 in.)
Executed in 1998.

Full Cataloguing

£270,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £378,000

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022