People are afraid of change, so you create a kind of belief for them through repetition. It’s like breathing. I’ve always been drawn to series and pairs. A unique thing is quite a frightening object.
Since emerging onto the international art scene in the late 1980s, Damien Hirst has created installations, sculptures, paintings, and drawings that examine the complex relationships between art and beauty, religion and science, and life and death. From serialized paintings of multicolored spots to animal specimens preserved in tanks of formaldehyde, his work challenges contemporary belief systems, tracing the uncertainties that lie at the heart of human experience.
In 1988, while studying at Goldsmiths College in London, Hirst curated Freeze, a rolling exhibition in three parts, featuring his work and that of fellow students. This show is considered the debut of the artists who would come to be known as the Young British Artists, or YBAs, whose approach was characterized by a combination of entrepreneurial and oppositional attitudes, the use of found materials, and an interest in shock and spectacle. In the final iteration of Freeze, Hirst included two of his Spot paintings, which he painted directly onto the wall. The Spot paintings (1986–), of which there are now more than one thousand, present multicolored spots on white or near-white grounds and are painted by hand in glossy house paint. With these works, Hirst sought to paint as a machine yet allow for the subtle imperfections of the artist’s hand. In 2012 Gagosian showed more than three hundred Spot paintings at once across all eleven of the gallery’s locations.
Like many of Hirst’s series, the Spot paintings evoke various psychological and perceptual dichotomies: they are both calming and unnerving, beautiful and ordinary. A subseries, the Pharmaceutical paintings (1986–2011), features evenly spaced, multicolored circles. The title links these works to the medicine cabinets (1988–2012) and Visual Candy paintings (1993–95), all of which consider the cultural role of prescription drugs, the ways they are advertised, and the many promises that are made to their consumers. The medicine cabinets are filled with the empty packaging of various medications, highlighting the minimalist aesthetic of the boxes and plastic containers. The Visual Candy paintings push the idea of false promises even further. Alluding to movements including Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop art, they are exuberant, colorful paintings with euphoric, perhaps facetious, titles such as Happy Happy Happy (1994), Wowee Zowee (1993), and Super Silly Fun (1993).
In 1991 Hirst created The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: a fourteen-foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde. This work, part of the Natural History series (1991–), has become a landmark of contemporary art and exemplifies Hirst’s interest in bridging the gap between art and science. The Natural History series includes additional taxidermied animals, including sheep, cows, a zebra, a dove, and even a “unicorn”—some of which are bisected or flayed. That same year, in London, Hirst presented In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies), an exhibition featuring real pupas glued to white canvases. The pupas hatched in the gallery, releasing live butterflies into the space. In 1997 Hirst collaborated on Pharmacy Restaurant and Bar in London, for which he designed the interior, transforming his work into an immersive environment.
Since the early 2000s Hirst has produced ambitious, captivating works ranging from the kaleidoscopic butterfly paintings (2001–08)—made by placing thousands of butterfly wings in intricate geometric patterns onto painted canvases—to For the Love of God (2007), a platinum cast of a human skull set with 8,601 diamonds. Hirst’s first major retrospective, The Agony and the Ecstasy, was presented by the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy, in 2004, and he was recognized in 2012 with a major retrospective at Tate Modern in London. While his 2017 exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable filled the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice with monumental, fantastical sculptures made of precious metals and stones, covered in illusionistic barnacles, Hirst subsequently returned to the gestural immediacy of painting with the Veil paintings (2017–18), in which he continued his examination of color and its effects on the eye.
In 2015 Hirst opened the Newport Street Gallery in London, a realization of his long-term ambition to share his art collection with the public.
Extended through April 16, 2022
Forgiving and Forgetting
January 20–April 16, 2022
541 West 24th Street, New York
Emergency Paintings, Danger Paintings, Hazard Pictures and Seizures
October 5, 2021–February 5, 2022
Britannia Street, London
Truth Revealed: Damien Hirst and James Fox on Ashley Bickerton
In conversation with James Fox, Damien Hirst reflects on the artwork of his longtime friend.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2021
The Fall 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Damien Hirst’s Reclining Woman (2011) on its cover.
For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.
Sydney Stutterheim meditates on the power and possibilities of small-format artworks throughout time.
In the Studio: Damien Hirst’s Veil Paintings
Damien Hirst speaks about his Veil paintings with Gagosian’s Alison McDonald. “I wanted to make paintings that were a celebration,” he says, “and that revealed something and obscured something at the same time.”
Damien Hirst: Visual Candy
James Fox considers the origins of Damien Hirst’s Visual Candy paintings on the occasion of a recent exhibition of these early works in Hong Kong.
Damien Hirst: Colour Space Paintings
Blake Gopnik examines the artist’s “dot” paintings in relation to the history of representation in Western art, in which dabs of paint have served as fundamental units of depiction and markers of objective truth.
The River Café Cookbook
London’s River Café, a culinary mecca perched on a bend in the River Thames, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2018. To celebrate this milestone and the publication of her cookbook River Café London, cofounder Ruth Rogers sat down with Derek Blasberg to discuss the famed restaurant’s allure.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
West Bund Art & Design 2023
November 9–12, 2023, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in West Bund Art & Design with an extensive group presentation. The gallery will exhibit works by Harold Ancart, Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Hao Liang, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Jia Aili, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Spencer Sweeney, Cameron Welch, Jonas Wood, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at West Bund Art & Design 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Zeng Fanzhi; © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany 2023; © Spencer Sweeney; © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Alessandro Wang
Frieze London 2023
October 12–15, 2023, booth E7
Regent’s Park, London
Gagosian is pleased to present a special solo presentation of new paintings by Damien Hirst in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Frieze London. These previously unseen works exemplify the artist’s endless capacity for invention.
In The Secret Gardens Paintings (2023), Hirst depicts thriving gardens in which different species of vibrantly colored flowers emerge from their verdant surroundings in a style that balances the designed and the natural, the harmonious and the chaotic. Rendering blooms, shrubs, and ponds in quick but convincing detail, he also incorporates consciously indistinct passages before finally adding an abstract layer to each canvas by hurling thick paint at its surface from a loaded brush.
Gagosian’s booth at Frieze London 2023, featuring paintings by Damien Hirst. Artwork © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2023. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Where the Land Meets the Sea
July 20–August 18, 2023
This exhibition features oil-on-canvas paintings from three series by Damien Hirst—Coast Paintings, Sea Paintings, and Seascapes—many of which have never before been seen publicly. The works are inspired by the artist’s pastime of walking on the beach and watching the sea, most recently in the United Kingdom during the winter, and draw influence from Abstract Expressionism, specifically Robert Motherwell’s Beside the Sea paintings from the 1960s. Where the Land Meets the Sea coincides with a drop on the HENI Primary digital platform. For more information on the works, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Installation view, Damien Hirst: Where the Land Meets the Sea, Phillips, London, July 20–August 18, 2023. Artwork © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2023. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Todo Se Vuelve Más Ligero
Through February 11, 2024
Museo Jumex, Mexico City
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Museo Jumex has invited Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum, New York, to curate an exhibition drawn entirely from the Jumex collection and occupying the whole building. Featuring work by more than seventy international artists, the exhibition, whose title translates to Everything Gets Lighter, brings together diverse works in a poetic meditation on the meaning of light and manifestations of lightness. Work by Damien Hirst, Steven Parrino, Ed Ruscha, and Rudolf Stingel is included.
Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2001–02, Museo Jumex, Mexico City © Rudolf Stingel
The Weight of Things
Open from October 26, 2023
Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich
The Weight of Things—the first major survey of Damien Hirst’s work in Germany—presented by the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich (MUCA) spans forty years of the artist’s career. The exhibition features over forty installations, sculptures, and paintings, some of which have never been seen before, as well as work from his most iconic series, including Natural History, Spin Paintings, Medicine Cabinets, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, and more, on view at MUCA.
Installation view, Damien Hirst: The Weight of Things, Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich, open from October 26, 2023 © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2023. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Reaching for the Stars
From Maurizio Cattelan to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
March 4–June 18, 2023
Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy
Reaching for the Stars celebrates thirty years since Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo began collecting art. Presenting highlights from her collection, the exhibition includes works by leading international artists and explores the most recent trends in art, embracing painting, sculpture, installation, video, and performance. Work by Glenn Brown, Damien Hirst, and Rudolf Stingel is included.
Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, Ex Unico, 2004 © Rudolf Stingel. Photo: courtesy Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
Art and Medicine
April 8–July 17, 2022
This group exhibition aims to explore the timeless human preoccupation with health by retracing key moments in medical history from the nineteenth century to present day. More than three hundred works, including drawing, painting, sculpture, video, spatial installation, and performance, examine the productive interplay of sickness, pain, medicine, care, and healing. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Duane Hanson, and Damien Hirst is included.
Duane Hanson, Medical Doctor, 1992–94 © 2022 Estate of Duane Hanson/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York