Holidays, 1989



1372 x 1016 x 229 mm | 54 x 40 x 9 in
Glass, faced particleboard, ramin, plastic, aluminium and pharmaceutical packaging
Image: Photographed by Joanna Fernandes © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2013
ALRIWAQ, Qatar Museums Authority, Doha, Qatar
Solo Exhibition - 2012
Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Solo Exhibition - 2010
L&M Arts, New York, United States
Solo Exhibition - 2004
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, Italy
Solo Exhibition - 2003
The Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Group Exhibition - 1992
Saatchi Collection, London, United Kingdom
Group Exhibition - 1989
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, United Kingdom


“You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway. You can’t arrest decay but these medicine cabinets suggest you can.”[1]

Hirst began work on the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ whilst in his second year at Goldsmiths with ‘Sinner’ (1988). Constructing the MDF unit at home, he filled it with the empty packaging of his grandmother’s medication, which he'd requested she left him on her death.

‘Holidays’ is one of a group of thirteen Hirst made next. Explaining, “I like it when there is more than one way of saying something, like songs on an album”, he titled the cabinets after the twelve tracks on the Sex Pistol’s album ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ (1977), with two named after ‘God Save the Queen’, (‘God’ (1989) and ‘god’ (1989)).[2]

Hirst exhibited the first four from the ‘Sex Pistols’ series – ‘Bodies’, ‘Liar’, ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’ (all 1989) – at his Goldsmiths degree show (1989) in a shared space with Angus Fairhurst. All four works were bought from the show by gallerist Karsten Schubert for £500 each. ‘Holidays’ was one of the next two cabinets made in the series. Along with ‘No Feelings’ (1989), it was included in ‘New Contemporaries’, an exhibition of young artists held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1989. Collector Charles Saatchi bought both cabinets from the exhibition. 

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 the artist 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