Damien Hirst - Evening Editions London Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Catalogue Essay

    “ 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.”

    Damien Hirst’s fascination with the imagery of faith, with his holy trinity of science, mortality, and beauty, is a thread deeply woven throughout his entire body of work. These preoccupations all converge in New Religion, an extraordinary and iconic anthology of artworks. Part reliquary, part cabinet of curiosities, part sacrificial altar; the New Religion chest contains a pre-curated collection of eight screenprint series, four sculptural objects, an altar,and an original butterfly painting. Hidden inside the white chest, the works become a tantalising secret, a promise of answers to the transcendental questions that have always beleaguered humankind. Once revealed, each object offers both a reminder of the inevitable proximity and terror of death, and simultaneously the hope of redemption and ultimately, of immortality.

    With each work in New Religion, Hirst balances fear and hope, death and life, physical decay and the illusion of pharmaceutically induced longevity. The brutal piercing of The Sacred Heart and the disquieting realism of The Wounds of Christ are a haunting echo of the suffering depicted in Mattias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. Yet just as Grünewald’s Christ served to comfort the plague sufferers sequestered in the Isenheim monastery, so too the cold reassurance of surgical intervention serve to comfort Hirst’s viewers. New Religion proposes the substitution of faith in religion with a faith in medicine, and in doing enters the contemporary debate about the failure of religion in the face of science to endure as a source of answers to fundamental existential questions. This is a debate that one could argue Hirst ended in an absolute assertion of faith in medicine with his 1992 Pharmacy installation. Indeed, when asked by Stuart Morgan what Pharmacy was all about Hirst answered, “Confidence that drugs will cure everything” (in an interview in Damien Hirst: No Sense of Absolute Corruption, exh. cat. Gagosian Gallery, New York, 1996). And yet in New Religion the uncertainty lingers, and the debate continues. The proliferation of pharmaceutical imagery, with the procession of saints as pills in The Apostles and the unending expanses of medical paraphernalia in New Religion (Silver), (Sky), and (Wine) attempt to assert the dominance of medical prowess. Yet the transcendental religious resonance of the solitary butterfly in The Soul on Jacob’s Ladder and the suspended dove in A Faint Hope Beyond the Fear of Death, cannot be suppressed, even in spite of (and perhaps because of) the ever present memento mori of The Fate of Man.

    Hirst’s New Religion has all the directness of a cliché, and yet this work is pervasively subtle. An insistent concern with mortality: the awareness of death, the lifelong process of dying, and the unavoidable attempts to transcend death; underpin the sublime spectacle of this important work. As soon as one object confirms faith, another denies it, and ultimately the viewer’s questions remain unanswered. Hirst’s attempt to renounce religious faith has in fact, in Michael Bracewell’s opinion, made him “one of the great religious artists of the modern period [by relating] realism to cosmic irony, pathos and splendour” (Michael Bracewell, ‘Requiem’, from Damien Hirst: Requiem I, Other Criteria/Pinchuk Art Centre, London, 2009). With Hirst’s correlation of the rational and the non-rational, New Religion balances eternally between the cold stillness of medical technology, and the most vivid religious depiction of the transience of life.

  • 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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New Religion - St. Andrew

The complete set of sixty-eight screenprints (comprising eight series with original slipcases); four sculptural objects in various materials; a unique butterfly painting; a custom built altar table in birch plywood and formica; and a custom built chest in MDF and leather,
chest: 79 x 110 x 160 cm (31 1/8 x 43 1/4 x 62 7/8 in)
all works signed and numbered 3 from their various editions (the edition for the entire set was 13, plus a 14th set of the sculptures and altar table, beyond this set, all sculptures and prints were sold on an individual basis, with varying edition sizes), published by Other Criteria and Paul Stolper Gallery, London all in very good condition. Please see separate catalogue for illustrations and detailed descriptions of portfolio contents.

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Evening Editions

27 February 2013