• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 7758

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    16 October 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 24

    Damien Hirst (b. 1965)

    Maxwell's

    Price Realised  

    Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
    Maxwell's
    signed 'Damien Hirst' (on the reverse); incised 'Hirst' (on a metal plaque affixed to the reverse)
    glass, painted MDF, aluminium and drug packaging
    24 x 36 x 6in. (61 x 91.5 x 15.3cm.)
    Executed in 1997-98


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    Maxwell's and I Miss You each formed part of one of the most high-profile art installations of the 1990s: Damien Hirst's Pharmacy restaurant. The Notting Hill restaurant was a colossal installation of Hirst's works which saw him pay personnal attention to every detail; from the art on the walls to the glasses, knives and forks in the customers' hands. Even the titles sometimes continued the restaurant theme: Maxwell's was named after the eponymous restaurant, one of the artist's favourite hang-outs in Berlin. As well as being a restaurant, Pharmacy comprised what had been, until the time of its opening in 1998, Hirst's largest single exhibition.

    Hirst explained, 'I did Pharmacy because I wanted to make a great place ,for people to be. It's really simple' (D. Hirst & G. Burn, On the Way to Work, London, 2001, p. 75). And it was a great place for people to be, attracting a constant crowd that often included the celebrities, be they Hollywood stars or YBAs, of the day. There was a deliberately twisted Hirst-like poignancy to the fact that these beautiful people ate and drank under the shadow of such works as his butterfly paintings, implying the presence of a constant memento mori, a testament to the fleeting nature of life and of fame.

    Hirst's art, and especially his pharmaceutical-related works such as Maxwell's and indeed the restaurant itself, take as their inspiration the modern obsession with medicine, which has become a substitute for the religion of old. There was a strange, fascinating tension between the medical accoutrements with which the diners and drinkers in Pharmacy were surrounded and the merry goings-on in which they were indulging, and this balance cut to the medical subject-matter that lies at the heart of much of the greatest of Hirst's oeuvre. However, in a sense it was this very tension that he was exploring. As he himself confessed, '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' (Hirst & Burn, ibid., p. 21). Nothing embodied this more succinctly than Pharmacy, with raw and raucous life taking place surrounded by the reliquaries devoted to the substances that we hope will prolong those lives.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    Pharmacy Restaurant, London.
    Damien Hirst's Pharmacy, Sotheby's London, 18 October 2004, lot 46.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.