Damien Hirst - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • “I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive… They represent the soul.”
    —Damien Hirst

    Damien Hirst, the audacious provocateur of contemporary art, has repeatedly employed butterflies to serve as potent symbols of life's fleeting beauty and inevitable demise. The motif emerged in 1991 at his first solo exhibition, for which he famously transformed a former travel agency in central London into an artwork titled In and Out of Love. Arranged on two floors, the ground floor comprised a humid, greenhouse-like environment with five white canvases on the walls from which butterfly pupae were attached. Here, amongst flowering plants and bowls of sugar, the newly born butterflies fluttered around the room, embodying beauty and the vitality of life. Nonetheless, in the basement below, eight glossy, vibrant canvases lined the walls with the limp carcasses of dead butterflies pressed into their surfaces. Here, as in countless artworks since, Hirst harnessed the butterflies’ mesmerising beauty and brief lifespan to foreground the transience of life and the universal presence of death.


    These poignant themes underly Hirst’s oeuvre as a whole, as we see in Big Love. A large scale piece, the bold, red glitter heart compounds the feelings of love, life, joy and freedom that are evoked by the butterflies as they flutter amongst the sparkles. Nonetheless, the piece is simultaneously a profound meditation on the unwavering and universal presence of death. The viewer is prompted to contemplate the paradoxical nature of human experience, where moments of joy are intricately woven with the inevitability of mortality. Big Love, therefore, is a powerful contemplation on human existence. Hirst compels us to question the boundaries between life, death and art, casting doubt on whether distinctions can really be made at all.

    • 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


Big Love

Screenprint in colours with diamond dust, on heavy wove paper, with full margins.
I. 136.4 x 136.4 cm (53 3/4 x 53 3/4 in.)
S. 155.3 x 151.6 cm (61 1/8 x 59 5/8 in.)

Signed and numbered 37/50 in pencil, published by Other Criteria, London (with their and the artist's blindstamps), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £48,260

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024