DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)
DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)
DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)
DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)

Love Will Never Die

Details
DAMIEN HIRST (B. 1965)
Love Will Never Die
butterflies and household gloss on canvas
diameter: 84in. (213.4cm.)
Executed in 1999
Provenance
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 2000).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
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

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

With its tiny iridescent forms splayed against a circular red backdrop, Love Will Never Die (1999) is an arresting early example of Damien Hirst’s butterfly paintings. Both disquieting and mesmerising, its delicate winged creatures are ensnared within a crimson void, preserved for eternity in a glowing painterly tomb. Within a practice dedicated to exploring themes of life and death, the butterfly paintings stand among Hirst’s most conceptually incisive works. Operating in counterpoint with his fly paintings, as well as the formaldehyde vitrines that had won him the Turner Prize in 1995, they offer visions of hope and beauty in the face of mortality. Here, his butterflies are frozen in time, as radiant and bewitching as when they were alive. Artificially spared from their inevitable decay, they fly in the face of death, sublimated by paint and reborn as art.

Butterflies have always been a central medium for Hirst. Executed in a variety of colours, formats and scales, the paintings evolved from his seminal installation In and Out of Love (1991). Many—including the present—would explicitly riff upon its title. For the exhibition, which marked his first solo show in London, Hirst transformed the gallery interior into a butterfly breeding ground. ‘I had white paintings with shelves on and the paintings had live pupae for butterflies glued on them’, he recalls. ‘The pupae hatched from the paintings and flew around, so it was like an environment for butterflies … Then downstairs I had another table which had ashtrays on it and canvases with dead butterflies stuck in the paint.’ Reflecting the dark, comedic sensibility of Hirst’s early practice, the spectacle also struck a profound chord with the artist. Even in death, he explained, the butterfly ‘still has this really optimistic beauty of a wonderful thing’ (D. Hirst, quoted in Damien Hirst: The Agony and the Ecstasy, exh. cat. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples 2004, pp. 74-77, 83).

Hirst has long been fascinated by the idea of immortality, and the butterfly paintings play with the insect’s historical associations. The Greek goddess Psyche was often represented with the wings of a butterfly; in Christian iconography, the creature became a symbol of the resurrection. The present work toys with these spiritual overtones: its appearance recalls a Renaissance tondo painting or a stained glass church window, anticipating Hirst’s Kaleidoscope paintings of the 2000s. At the same time, its clean, Minimalist composition invokes rigour and logic, conjuring the neatly-catalogued insects of Victorian natural history museums. Religion and science had probed the question of eternal life; why, then, should art not have its say? A shark suspended in formaldehyde could offer answers. So too could pills lined up in a cabinet. In his butterflies sealed in paint, Hirst offers a vision that is bright, joyful and full of hope. Faith and reason might come and go, but art—and love—live on.

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