The Void, 2000
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Glass, stainless steel, steel, aluminium, nickel, bismuth and cast resin, coloured plaster and painted pills with dry transfers
2360 x 4710 x 110 mm | 92.9 x 185.4 x 4.3 in
Céline and Heiner Bastian, Berlin, Germany
Gagosian Gallery, West 24th Street, New York, United States
The title of this early pill cabinet can be interpreted as Hirst’s response to Max Beckmann’s idea of painting as a way of dealing with the ‘void’. The early twentieth century artist described, “this unending void whose foreground we constantly have to fill with stuff of some sort in order not to notice its horrifying depth.” Hirst exhibited the work in his major solo show at Gagosian Gallery in 2000, ‘Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings’.
With the pill cabinets, Hirst invites analysis of an object by removing it from its conventional context. The formal arrangement and display of the beautifully coloured, handmade pills recalls the cabinets of curiosity popularised by the Victorians. Here, the aesthetic allure of the pills is rendered useless in the face of their unknown medical purpose; Hirst’s suggestion being that their power relies on an unquestioning belief that somehow our ills will be cured.
 Max Beckmann (1915) cited in Megan Craig, ‘Levinas and James: toward a pragmatic phenomenology’ (Indiana, 2010) 189