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signed, titled and dated 'Damien Hirst 2019 'Time'' (on the reverse)
butterflies and household gloss on canvas
diameter: 24in. (61cm.)
Executed in 2019
Gagosian, Hong Kong.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2021.
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Executed in 2019, Time is a majestic work from Damien Hirst’s Mandala series. Set against a background of bright yellow gloss paint, it presents a concentric configuration of butterfly wings, their symmetrical forms suspended around a single blue butterfly at the work’s centre. Fixed in flight, or rather preserved in stillness, their iridescent wings sparkle like luxurious gemstones, the composition recalling a flood of light entering through a stained-glass window. A contemporary memento mori, the work is a vision of triumph over death, transforming the short lives of insects into a spectacle of eternal splendour. This notion of a pictorial afterlife, a theme which runs through Hirst’s practice, is captured by the work’s title, which invokes temporal transience. It is a magnificent example of the paradox of beauty in death that lies at the core of his art.

Hirst first used butterflies in his seminal 1991 exhibition In and Out of Love, which occupied two floors of a former London travel agency. Upstairs, he created an environment for a group of live butterflies, allowing them to fly, mate, lay eggs and die in the gallery space. Meanwhile on the ground floor, he presented a series of monochrome canvases with butterflies attached to their surface, as if trapped in the thick, wet oil paint. An instantly recognisable motif, butterflies became an increasingly central component of Hirst’s practice, their presentation evolving in the complex, psychedelic arrangements of his Kaleidoscope series, which has occupied the artist from 2001 to the present day. Where the Kaleidoscope paintings reference Christian iconography, with many of their titles borrowed from the Book of Psalms and their surfaces recalling stained-glass chapel windows, Time and other Mandala works are grounded in Eastern philosophical practices, the symbol of the mandala typically associated with Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Like the mandala, which is often employed as an instrument for meditation or trance induction, works such as Time exert a rich celebratory presence, the placement of a single butterfly at its centre a homage to its symbolic inner core.

Illustrating his ongoing obsession with circular forms, demonstrated by his iconic Spot and Spin paintings, Hirst’s Mandala series also recalls the Renaissance tondo, a term referring to circular paintings or sculptures such as Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (c. 1507) and Raphael’s Madonna with the Child and Young St John (1513-14). In Time, the circular canvas emphasises the theme of the cycle of life invoked by the butterfly—a creature which, from ancient Mesoamerica to medieval Japan and classical Europe, has long been associated with death and reincarnation.

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