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Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION
Damien Hirst (b. 1965)

Mercuric Thiocyanate

Details
Damien Hirst (b. 1965)
Mercuric Thiocyanate
signed, titled and dated '"Mercuric Thiocyanate" 2007 Damien Hirst' (on the reverse); signed 'D. Hirst' (on the stretcher)
household gloss on canvas
69 x 117in. (175.3 x 297.2cm.)
Executed in 2007
Provenance
Haunch of Venison, London.
Private Collection, Geneva.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 15 February 2012, lot 26.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
J. Beard and M. Wilner (eds.), The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011, London 2013, p. 851 (illustrated in colour, p. 441).
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.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

‘I started them as an endless series ... a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies’ scientific approach to life. Art doesn’t purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do ... Art is like medicine, it can heal. Yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine but don’t believe in art’
–Damien Hirst


Stretching nearly three metres in width, Mercuric Thiocyanate is a monumental work from Damien Hirst’s signature series of Spot Paintings. Rendered in a dazzling array of bold and pale hues, a kaleidoscopic grid of dots stretches across the canvas. Painted in 2007, the work belongs to the iconic group of ‘Pharmaceutical Paintings’ that represents one of the most important subseries of the ‘Spot Paintings’. First conceived over thirty years ago, alongside his celebrated ‘Medicine Cabinets’, these works take their titles from individual chemical compounds. Probing the relationship between art and science, they capture the conflicting strains of logic and chaos inherent to both fields. Though seemingly systematic in their composition, the colours are selected and distributed at random, with no one hue repeated in a single canvas. ‘I started them as an endless series’, explains Hirst; ‘... a scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies’ scientific approach to life. Art doesn’t purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings, and the individual titles of the paintings themselves ... Art is like medicine, it can heal. Yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine but don’t believe in art’ (D. Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London 2006, p. 246).

Characterized by equal-sized, equidistant dots positioned on a white background, the ‘Pharmaceutical Paintings’ were created primarily between 1988 and 2011. Their titles were taken from a book that Hirst chanced upon in the early 1990s: Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents, by the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich. Whilst the majority were selected for their associated healing properties, ‘Mercury(II) thiocyanate’, or Hg(SCN)2, is a toxicsubstance known for its volatile exothermic reactions. When lit, it swells to vast proportions, generating a coil of ash that is said to resemble a snake. Indeed, the chemical was notably used to create a firework known as ‘Pharaoh’s serpent’, but was later banned due to its deadly properties. The dark connotations of the present work’s title sets it apart from its the other pieces. One could argue that it speaks to the artist’s fascination with the thin line between life and death: a theme that runs throughout his oeuvre. Whilst the Spot Paintings are joyful symphonies of colour, they are simultaneously underpinned by a powerful sense of discord. ‘If you look closely at any one of these paintings a strange thing happens’, explains Hirst; ‘because of the lack of repeated colours there is no harmony ... in every painting there is a subliminal sense of unease; yet the colours project so much joy it’s hard to feel it, but it’s there. The horror underlying everything. The horror that can overwhelm everything at any moment’ (D. Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London 2006, p. 246). The dialogue between beauty and mortality lies at the heart of Hirst’s practice, and finds eloquent expression in the present work.

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