It's Great to Be Alive, 2002



It's Great to Be Alive
Diameter: 2134 mm | 84 in
Butterflies and household gloss on canvas
Image: © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2013
ALRIWAQ, Qatar Museums Authority, Doha, Qatar
Solo Exhibition - 2004
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, Italy


‘It’s Great to Be Alive’ (2002) is the second work in Hirst’s series of 'Kaleidoscope paintings', in which thousands of butterfly wings are placed in intricate patterns reminiscent of stained-glass windows.

Whilst the butterfly is one of Hirst’s most enduring “universal triggers”, in the 'Kaleidoscope paintings' the use of the insect differs to earlier works. Previously, the inclusion of live butterflies, as in the installation ‘In and Out of Love’ (1991), or whole dead ones in the butterfly monochrome paintings, was partially an exploration of “the way the real butterfly can destroy the ideal (birthday-card) kind of love; the symbol exists apart from the real thing”.[1] Recalling someone once saying to him: “Butterflies are beautiful, but it’s a shame they have disgusting hairy bodies in the middle,” Hirst chose to use only the iridescent wings in the kaleidoscope paintings, divorcing the butterflies from “the real thing”, and thus presenting an idealised form of beauty.[2]

[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 118

[2] Ibid., 135