Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
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Damien Hirst (b. 1965)

Anaesthetics (and the Way They Affect the Mind and Body)

Details
Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
Anaesthetics (and the Way They Affect the Mind and Body)
glass, silicone, acrylic, polystyrene and formaldehyde solution
two tanks, each tank: 18 x 27 x 18in. (45.7 x 68.5 x 45.7cm.)
Executed in 1991
Provenance
Interim Art, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991.
Literature
G. Burn and D. Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London 1997 (illustrated in colour, p. 51).
Damien Hirst: The Agony and the Ecstasy Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 124).
Damien Hirst, exh. cat., London, Tate Modern, 2012, fig. 35 (illustrated in colour, p. 210).
Exhibited
London, Institute of Contemporary Art, Damien Hirst, 1991-1992 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
London, Lisson Gallery, Wonderful Life, 1993.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Louisa Robertson
Louisa Robertson

Lot Essay

'Sometimes I think you can create more of a kind of horror with empty water. A big empty tank of water is quite a frightening thing
(D. Hirst quoted M. D'Argenzio (ed.), Like People, Like Flies: Damien Hirst Interviewed, The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989 2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples 2004, p. 70).


'[Hirst employed formaldehyde] as much to communicate an idea as to preserve, act[ing] aesthetically to maintain an illusion of life in death'(D. Hirst quoted in D. Hirst, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now London 2005, p. 9).



A formative work from 1991, Anaesthetics (and the Way They Affect the Mind and Body) is Damien Hirst's first exhibited formaldehyde work. Included in the seminal Internal Affairs show at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1991, Anaesthetics is amongst Damien Hirst's earliest Natural History works and conceptually informs his entire oeuvre.

Revealing the conceptual origins for some of the artist's most notorious works, two formaldehyde-filled glass tanks stand as proxies for absent figures. Addressing presence as much as absence, Anaesthetics shares a conceptual relationship with Stimulants (and the Way They Affect the Mind and Body) from the same year, which consists of two identical formaldehyde tanks each containing a sheep's heads. Together the works embody the dualities of cognisance; Anaesthetics representing amnesia and absence, Stimulants representing awakening and presence. Inducing a temporary loss of consciousness under the influence of medication, Anaesthetics is characterized by its unoccupied vitrines of formaldehyde; the implied figures not deceased but instead absent, their visual presence numbed by medicine, their physical manifestation removed with their pain. In this way, Anaesthetics informs Stimulants, so named for the category of drugs uses to enliven and revive. The presence of the figures in Stimulants symbolizes cognisance, and represents the first example of Hirst placing animals within tanks of liquid. Together the works epitomize the duality that exists between the presence of life and the inevitability of death, provoking a visual, mental and visceral reaction in the viewer; the dialectic opposition forcing us to contemplate the unknowable and reminding us of our own mortality. While sharing a conceptual heritage, Anaesthetics and Stimulants are unique works and were not originally exhibited together (Anaesthetics was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London while Stimulants was included in the group exhibition Louder than Words at The Cornerhouse, Manchester in the same year).

Performing both as a window and a barrier, the glass vitrine has become a formal tool for the artist. Recalling the minimalist aesthetic of Sol leWitt and Donald Judd, the clean, unbroken lines of steel and glass create a controlled environment, providing a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic world. The presence of two identical tanks is critical, two being a symbolic number for Hirst, evoking relationships and communication. Similarly, formaldehyde performs a metaphorical role for the artist, the virulent liquid encompassing the power to both preserve and harm. Speaking about the viscous liquid, the artist has stated he 'employed [it] as much to communicate an idea as to preserve, act[ing] aesthetically to maintain an illusion of life in death' (D. Hirst quoted in D. Hirst I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, London, 2005, p. 9). From this elemental concept, the first vitrines came to encapsulate 'a fear of everything in life being so fragile and wanting to make a sculpture where the fragility was encased. Where it exists in its own space. The sculpture is spatially contained' (D. Hirst, quoted in V. Button (ed.), The Turner Prize, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London 1997, p.114). In its purest form, Anaesthetics represents the very essence of some of the artist's most widely recognised and important works; this initial experimental use of the glass vitrine and formaldehyde elements would come to inform much of artist's subsequent works. As the artist stated, 'sometimes I think you can create more of a kind of horror with empty water. A big empty tank of water is quite a frightening thing' (D. Hirst quoted M. D'Argenzio (ed.) 'Like People, Like Flies: Damien Hirst Interviewed', The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989 - 2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples 2004, p. 70).

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