Damien Hirst, ‘Harmol’, Sotheby's

Property from a Distinguished American Collection

From the Catalogue
“Imagine a world of spots. Every time I do a painting a square is cut out. They regenerate. They’re all connected.” Damien Hirst

Bold and precise, Harmol, is an immaculate example of Damien Hirst's signature corpus of spot paintings. Uniquely-colored chromatic circles, ranging from bright tones to pastel hues, explode in a grid-like formation across the vast field of the pristine canvas.

Within the thirteen sub-series of Spot paintings, Hirst’s Pharmaceutical works are the most celebrated and prolific. Of this initial series which dates from 1986, Harmol is amongst the final works ever produced. Hirst reveals, “I started [the Spot Paintings] as an endless series like a sculptural idea of a painter (myself). A scientific approach to painting in a similar way to the drug companies’ scientific approach to life. Art doesn’t purport to have all the answers; the drug companies do. Hence the title of the series, The Pharmaceutical Paintings, and the individual titles of the paintings themselves…” (the artist in “On Dumb Painting,” The Complete Spot Paintings, London 2013, p. Ab).

Reflective of his interest in the connections between art and science, Hirst titled each work in this series after a unique chemical compound. In systematic fashion, he named these paintings alphabetically according to the Sigma Chemical Company's catalogue, Biochemical Organic Compounds for Research and Diagnostic Reagents. ‘Harmol’ is a nitrogen heterocycle compound, known as β-carboline. The vibrant and delightful dots organized in neat rows across the canvas belie the sterile and medicinal nature of Hirst’s artistic experiment; like pills and products manufactured to ward of sickness and promote well-being, at the heart of these machinations is the inevitability of death.

Hirst’s Pharmaceutical paintings remind the viewer that despite our desire for order and beauty, we ultimately have no control over our destiny. “Art is like medicine–it can heal. Yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine but don’t believe in art, without questioning either” (ibid., p. Ab). Hirst’s meticulously painted dots span over 120 square feet, immersing us in a cellular kaleidoscopic field. In essence, Harmol is yet another drug that Hirst is prescribing us.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: signed and stamped with the artist's seal on the stretcher; signed, titled and dated 2010-2011 on the reverse

Jason Beard and Millicent Wilner, Eds., Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011, London 2013, p. 728, illustrated in color

Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Gift of the above to the present owner

About Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst first came to public attention in London in 1988 when he conceived and curated "Freeze," an exhibition in a disused warehouse that showed his work and that of his friends and fellow students at Goldsmiths College. In the nearly quarter of a century since that pivotal show (which would come to define the Young British Artists), Hirst has become one of the most influential artists of his generation. His groundbreaking works include The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), a shark in formaldehyde; Mother and Child Divided (1993) a four-part sculpture of a bisected cow and calf; and For the Love of God (2007), a human skull studded with 8,601 diamonds. In addition to his installations and sculptures, Hirst’s Spot paintings and Butterfly paintings have become universally recognized.

British, b. 1965, Bristol, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom