Substitute, 1990 - 1991

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Damien Hirst

Substitute

1990 - 1991

Glass, faced particleboard, beech, wooden dowels, plastic, aluminium, resin, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and packaging, circa 1960-1975

1372 x 1016 x 229 mm | 54 x 40 x 9 in

Image: Courtesy of White Cube © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Context

Hirst started his series of ‘Medicine Cabinets’ whilst in his second year at Goldsmiths. In their arrangement of objects the cabinets link Hirst’s earlier collages (1983 - 1987) to his later work. The used packages that fill the cabinets, described by Hirst as “empty fucking vessels”, were originally arranged as if the cabinet were itself a body, with each item positioned according to the organs it medically related to. However, this system did not last and the “minimalist delicious colours” of the designs swiftly became the most important criterion for their arrangement within each cabinet. Hirst has likened the minimalist packaging to the work of Sol Le Witt and Donald Judd: “They’re not flamboyant are they? They’re not allowed to sell themselves, except in a very clinical way. Which starts to become funny.”[3] 

The works explore the distinction between life and death, myth and medicine. Hirst notes: “You take a medicine cabinet and you present it to people and it’s just totally believable. I mean a lot of the stuff is about belief, I think, and the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ are just totally believable.”[4] 

In 2010 L & M Arts, New York, presented ‘The Complete Medicine Cabinets’, an exhibition of Hirst’s cabinets dating from 1988, shown alongside a collection of ‘Sex Pistols’ memorabilia.

 



[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Life’s Like This and Then It Stops’, Adrian Dannatt (Flash Art, no. 169, 1993)

[2] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst, ‘The Complete Medicine Cabinets’ (Other Criteria/L & M Gallery, 2010), 69

[3] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 211

[4] ibid., 24, 79