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Damien Hirst (born 1965)

Patrick Elliott, Chief Curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, talks about the artist Damien Hirst and some of his works which are now part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection jointly owned by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate.

[Duration 2:06]


Damien Hirst is the most prominent artist 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 five important works spanning Hirst’s career including photography, painting, sculpture and installation. The early photograph taken in a morgue, With Dead Head is included, displaying an early preoccupation with death.

Away from the Flock - one of his ‘Natural History’ works featuring dead animals floating in vitrines - features a sheep floating 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, 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 which he produces in series. Included in this collection is the early Controlled Substances Key Painting (Spot 4a), 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, was made by Hirst specifically for Anthony d’Offay’s ARTIST ROOMS collection.