In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies), 1991



In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies)
Dimensions variable
Primer on canvas with pupae, steel, potted flowers, live butterflies, Formica, MDF, bowls, sugar-water solution, fruit, radiators, heaters, cool misters, air vents, lights, thermometers and humidistats
Image: Photographed by Alex Hartley © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2012
Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Solo Exhibition - 1991
Woodstock Street, London, United Kingdom


“I want art to be life but it never can be.”

Hirst’s installation piece ‘In and Out of Love’, is made up of two works: ‘In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies)’ (1991); and ‘In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays)’ (1991). They were united for the first time since their initial exhibition at Tate Modern’s ‘Damien Hirst’ retrospective in 2012.

In 1991, just over a year after Hirst’s graduation from Goldsmiths, Tamara Chozdko organised an exhibition of the installation in an ex-travel agent’s office in Woodstock Street, London, in what proved to be one of the emerging artist’s most important early shows. The works were exhibited separately on two floors. In the humid upstairs space butterflies emerged from pupae attached to white painted canvases. Flowers and sugar water enabled the butterflies to feed, mate and lay eggs until they eventually died. Downstairs, butterfly monochrome paintings surrounded a table punctuated with overflowing ashtrays, the artist’s intention being to evoke the atmosphere of a private view. Positioned around the room were four large boxes, upscaled versions of those that contained the maggots in a ‘A Hundred Years’ (1990).

The installation was described by Hirst as one of his most conceptually complicated works to date. He explains: “It’s about love and realism, dreams, ideals, symbols, life and death. I worked out many possible trajectories for these things, like the way the real butterfly can destroy the ideal (birthday-card) kind of love; the symbol exists apart from the real thing. Or the butterflies still being beautiful even when dead. All these things are completely thrown off balance by a comparison I tried to make between art and life, in the upstairs and downstairs installations, a crazy thing to do when in the end it’s all art.”[1]

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Damien Hirst & Sophie Calle’, ‘Internal Affairs’ (Jay Jopling/ICA, 1991), unpag.