“I think science and art are both lacking in some sort of spirituality. And I think that they’re sort of head-butting each other trying to get something like that back.”
‘Corned Beef’ is one of a series of thirteen screenprints that depicts pharmaceutical packaging with the medicine’s name replaced with that of food common on British canteen menus.
The series was originally shown as part of ‘Art in Sacred Spaces’ (2000), in which exhibitions were held in practising places of worship across London with the intention of creating a dialogue between artists and faith communities. Hirst’s contribution was shown at St Stephen’s Church in Islington. In 2001, he was awarded the Ljubljana Biennial Grand Prize for ‘The Last Supper’ and consequently invited to put on his first exhibition of drawings, ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’, in 2003.
As in ‘Pharmacy’ (1992), and with the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ series, ‘The Last Supper’ shows Hirst’s interest in the Minimalist aesthetic appeal of medical packaging, which Hirst has likened to the work of Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. ‘The Last Supper’ forms part of Hirst’s ongoing examination of the role of religion and science in contemporary society. On discussing the basis for the series he states: “Where’s God now? God’s fucked off. So all these big issues – like art and science and cancer – are all clambering about on this barren landscape where God used to exist.” The prints use humour to comment upon this modern confusion whilst also passing comment on the pharmaceutical industry: “[The packages] aren’t flamboyant are they? They’re not allowed to sell themselves, except in a very clinical way, which starts to become funny.” For the artist, humour is an important and frequently employed tool, which he describes as “a by-product of thinking about creating meaning through the relationships of objects”.
Hirst intended that the thirteen prints of ‘The Last Supper’ should always be shown together, replicating those present at the biblical account of Jesus’s Last Supper.