I can’t understand why most people believe in medicine and don’t believe in art, without questioning either.
Pharmacy was first shown at the Cohen Gallery, New York in 1992. In the installation work, Hirst explores the distinctions between art and life, and the power given to pharmaceuticals by our unquestioning faith in them.
In the work the gallery space is covered with wall-to-wall medicine cabinets, stocked with empty pill packaging. The packaging acts as a contemporary museum which, ‘in a 100 years’ time this will look like an old apothecary.’ At one side of the room, a receptionist’s desk holds four apothecary bottles representing earth, fire, air and water – the traditional symbol of the pharmacy. At the centre of the room hangs an Insect-O-Cutor, surrounded by stools on which sit bowls of honey and honeycomb. Hirst involves the viewer through the fly killer. He explains:
I hope you’ll realise you’re like a metaphor for the fly. [You’re involved] because you’re one of the things milling around inside the environment. It’s about a civilization, the collapse of a civilisation. Something falling apart as it builds up.
Although he adds, ‘That’s how I read it, but if you walk in and think it’s a chemist’s shop that’s fine by me.’
At the original 1992 exhibition of the installation, round holes were cut into the gallery windows in order to conceptually allow insects inside the space. Hirst explains this addition:
It’s like ideas coming in from outside; flies, butterflies, whatever, allowing inspiration to come in from the outside, like holes in the head for eyes or like the holes bored in the skulls of living people in the Middle Ages to let evil out.
Text extract taken from damienhirst.com