The Goss-Michael Foundation

The Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas, United States

Hirst’s monumental Natural History work ‘Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain’ (2007) forms part of The Goss-Michael Foundation’s permanent collection display.

‘Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain’ (2007). Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

The Goss-Michael Foundation was founded in 2007 with the intention of presenting exhibitions of British Contemporary art, and providing vast resources, educational programmes and scholarships to aspiring artists. The collection is comprised entirely of British Contemporary art and includes approximately 500 works by more than 75 of the most prominent British artists working today.

Hirst’s monumental ‘Natural History’ work ‘Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain’ (2007) is on display as part of the Dallas gallery’s permanent collection, alongside work by Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst amongst others. Hirst initially made sketches for the sculpture in 2002, before fabricated it for ‘Beyond Belief’ – his major exhibition at White Cube, London, in 2007. Explaining that his “belief in art is a completely religious belief”, the artist has frequently cited the importance of his exposure to Catholic images and teachings as a child. The martyr Saint Sebastian – portrayed within the Christian iconographic tradition as a youthful man bound and shot with arrows – is here instead depicted as a young bull, pierced with crossbow bolts, arrows and knives. Regarding his choice of a bullock as the martyred saint, Hirst explains: “It’s kind of odd to take meat and give it back a personality in some way or make it a metaphorical carrier or something like that. People don’t like faces on meat. But also for it to be dead in a tragic way. For you to have some sort of understanding or to feel its pain or tragedy.”[1]

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘An Interview’, Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Beyond Belief’ (Other Criteria/White Cube, 2008), 34