Damien Hirst - Medicine Cabinets (1988-94)

1. Installation view

2. Nothing to Fear

3. My Way

4. Bodies

5. Enemy (detail)

6. Sinner (detail)

"Hirst started his series of ‘Medicine Cabinets’ whilst in his second year at Goldsmiths. In their arrangement of objects the cabinets link Hirst’s earlier collages to his later work. The used packages that fill the cabinets, described by Hirst 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. The works explore the distinction between life and death, myth and medicine.

Sinner is Hirst’s portrait of his grandmother, Eileen Brennan, taken through the drug packaging she left to him, on his request, on her death.

Eileen played an important role in Hirst’s upbringing. He recalls: ‘She’d tell me that Father Christmas didn’t exist when I was really young, and was really kind of logical with me […] She promised that if ghosts exist she’d come back and haunt me. So I thought, after she died of lung cancer, obviously they don’t. And then, recently, I kind of thought, well, maybe they do, and she came back in a way that I don’t quite understand.’”

show notes
Septim themes