Robert Ryman (b. 1930)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Damien Hirst (b. 1965)

Night Falls Fast

Details
Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
Night Falls Fast
flies and resin on canvas
diameter: 144in. (365cm.)
Executed in 2004
Provenance
White Cube
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Literature
Damien Hirst: The Agony and the Ecstasy, Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 254 (illustrated in colour, p. 90).
Exhibited
London, Tate Britain, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida: Angus Fairhurst, Damien Hirst & Sarah Lucas, 2004, p. 110 (incorrectly titled as ‘Black Sun’, illustrated in colour p.9; detail illustrated in colour pp. 8-9; installation view illustrated in colour on pull-out).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
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.
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Sale room notice
Please note this was work acquired from White Cube and not directly from the artist as previously stated in the printed catalogue.
Please note this work has now been signed, titled and dated 'D. Hirst, Night Falls Fast, 2004' by the artist (on the reverse).

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Annemijn van Grimbergen

Lot Essay

‘Your whole life could be like points in space, like nearly nothing. If you stand back far enough you think people are just like flies, like the cycle of a fly is like your own life’ (D. Hirst, quoted in interview with M. D’Argenzio in The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 94).

‘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’ (D. Hirst, quoted in D. Hirst and G. Burn, On the Way to Work, London, 2001, p. 21).

‘The death of an insect that still has this really optimistic beauty of a wonderful thing. I remember thinking about that. They don’t rot like humans’ (D. Hirst, quoted in interview with M. D’Argenzio in The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 83).

With its gleaming, encrusted black surface extending over three metres in diameter, Night Falls Fast is one of the largest works from Damien Hirst’s landmark series of fly paintings. Within the dark recesses of its gaping circular vortex, the remains of thousands of dead insects conspire to form a bewitching iridescent tapestry. At once entrancing and chilling, swarms of glistening black bodies and delicate translucent wings are crushed together in an intractable fusion of visceral substance, glazed with resin to produce a dense textural plaque. Executed in 2004, the work is situated at the height of Hirst’s engagement with the medium, and was exhibited the same year in the artist’s major retrospective Damien Hirst: The Agony and the Ecstasy at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. In his irreverent yet captivating carnage, Hirst challenges us to confront the fear of death that lies at the very core of our existence. Yet, like so much of his oeuvre, the tension between sublimity and decay is ultimately conceived as an affirmative celebration of life. Indeed, as Rudi Fuchs has argued, ‘for all its compelling imagery, [Hirst’s] work is not sinister... Fear of death is a more powerful emotion than love or lust. To some extent fear of death keeps us alive’ (R. Fuchs, ‘Victory Over Decay’, in Beyond Belief, exh. cat., White Cube, London, 2008, p. 6). Tinged with a dark romanticism, both beautiful and foreboding, the fly paintings investigate the subtle points of transition between life, death, nature and art that together form the conceptual backbone of Hirst’s practice.

Spanning over a decade of Hirst’s practice, the fly paintings were inaugurated in 1997 with the work Untitled Black Monochrome (Without Emotion). Revived again in 2002, and pursued over the next six years, the works represent a conceptual extension of his iconic early installations A Thousand Years and A Hundred Years, both created in 1990 during the early stages of Hirst’s career. Comprising adjoining glass cabinets in which live flies enacted the passage from birth to death, these works posited the common insects as metaphors for the natural patterns of life. This analogy was reinvigorated in the fly paintings: citing Thomas Hobbes’ assertion that people are like flies brushed off a wall, Hirst claims, ‘I like that metaphorically. Your whole life could be like points in space, like nearly nothing. If you stand back far enough you think people are just like flies, like the cycle of a fly is like your own life’ (D. Hirst, quoted in interview with M. D’Argenzio in The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 94). In the fly paintings, this sense of dialogue between the individual and the collective mass is taken to a new level, with each fly’s identity subsumed by the overall pictorial effect of abstract monochrome. At the same time, the gravity of Hirst’s endeavour is infused with characteristically theatrical, almost comedic overtones. As the artist explains, ‘I remember painting something white once and flies landing on its, thinking “Fuck!” but then thinking it was funny. This idea of an artist trying to make a monochrome and being fucked up by flies landing on the paint or something like that’ (D. Hirst, quoted in interview with M. D’Argenzio in The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 83).

The mechanics of death and decay have been consistent themes within Hirst’s oeuvre, notably demonstrated by the formaldehyde vitrines that first catapulted him to international acclaim. In the fly paintings, however, Hirst uncovered a new, uniquely poetic dimension to this discourse. ‘The death of an insect that still has this really optimistic beauty of a wonderful thing’, the artist explains. ‘I remember thinking about that. They don’t rot like humans’ (D. Hirst, quoted in interview with M. D’Argenzio in The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989-2004, exh. cat., Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 2004, p. 83). Hirst’s particular fascination with insects has given rise to a number of other significant series within his output, including his extensive butterfly paintings, alongside his more recent Entomology works, in which a plethora of invertebrate species are arranged in intricate patterns upon the canvas. Though the thick surfaces of the fly paintings drew inspiration from Richard Serra’s black paintstick drawings, the works ultimately subvert the aura of contemplative meditation traditionally associated with monochrome, recasting the canvas as a teeming, crawling entity that vibrates with the traces of a thousand minuscule organisms. Indeed, observing the present work, we feel as though we are gazing into the void of a densely populated universe, a veritable constellation of beings that glimmers with the abundant remnants of natural life. As Richard Shone has written, ‘Hirst is essentially a romantic artist, amazed by the sweep of life, from its grandest themes to its grittiest detail... His work is essentially life-affirming, even at its most chilling moments’ (R. Shone, ‘Damien Hirst: A Power to Amaze’, in Damien Hirst: Pictures from the Saatchi Gallery, London, 2002, p. 85).

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