Damien Hirst is one of the most prominent artists to have emerged from the British art scene in the 1990s. His role as an artist and curator has proved fundamental in the development of the group that became internationally known as ‘the YBAs’ (Young British Artists). Hirst’s work asks viewers to question the main dilemmas of human existence: birth, illness, death and religion.
The ARTIST ROOMS collection comprises eight important works spanning Hirst’s career including photography, painting, sculpture and installation. The early photograph taken in a morgue, With Dead Head 1991 is included, displaying an early preoccupation with death.
Away from the Flock 1994 – one of Hirst's ‘Natural History’ works featuring dead animals floating in vitrines – features a sheep in formaldehyde. The lamb looks alive but is dead, and references the religious theme of the lamb of God. Religion is explored further in the large triptych work, Trinity - Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology 2000, in which medical products become a replacement for faith.
Hirst is also recognised for his mirrored pharmacy cabinets lined with shelves full of drug bottles, pills, sea shells or cigarette butts, and his paintings, both of which he produces in series. Included in this collection is the early Controlled Substances Key Painting (Spot 4a) 1994, a canvas where a grid of dots of different colours is accompanied by letters in alphabetical order that seem to dissect and reorganise the very matter of painting into cells.
The most recent painting in the collection, the large butterfly diptych Monument to the Living and the Dead 2006, was made by Hirst specifically for Anthony d’Offay’s ARTIST ROOMS collection.