Press Release

Damien Hirst donates major work to Tate

Tate announces today that four important works by Damien Hirst have been donated by the artist to the Collection. This is the first major gift by the artist to a museum.

The gift includes an early vitrine, The Acquired Inability to Escape 1991, the sculpture Life Without You 1991, one of the first in Hirst’s series of fly paintings Who is Afraid of the Dark?2002, and the exhibition copy of Mother and Child Divided, 2007 which is on display in Turner Prize: A Retrospective at Tate Britain until 6 January. This is the first phase of a major gift of works from Damien Hirst’s personal collection that he has committed to Tate.

Damien Hirst said:

It means a lot to me to have works in the Tate. I would have never thought it possible when I was a student. I’ve been in negotiations with the Tate for a few years to make sure they get the right pieces to represent me properly. I think giving works from my collection is a small thing if it means millions of people get to see the work displayed in a great space.

Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate said: 

This substantial gift from Damien Hirst will transform the representation of his work in Tate’s Collection. I am extremely grateful to Damien for his overwhelming generosity in making such a significant gift to Tate and for working closely with us to ensure we have an important range of his work. With such a limited budget for acquisitions, and when art market prices are high, Tate is indebted to international contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst for working with us on building the Collection.

Works gifted to Tate:

The Acquired Inability to Escape 1991 is a large vitrine that suggests the recent presence of a smoker, containing among other things, cigarettes, lighter, ashtray and stubs. For Hirst, the cigarette is a multi-layered symbol suggesting luxury, danger and death. This work was included in his first solo exhibition at the ICA, London in 1992/3.

Life Without You 1991 consists of an arrangement of sea shells laid on a desk, evenly spaced. Like other pieces by Hirst, the specimens seem to have been grouped and classified for their study and appreciation. The work is a companion work to the cabinet piece Forms Without Life 1991, in Tate’s Collection.

Who is Afraid of the Dark? 2002 is one of the first in Hirst’s series of fly paintings. In these, dead flies completely cover the canvases creating large monochrome paintings, evoking the austere beauty of Minimalism through the compulsive collection of dead insects.

Mother and Child Divided, exhibition copy 2007. The original version (1993) was shown as part of Hirst’s Turner Prize show in 1995 and is held in the collection of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo. The piece comprises a cow and calf, each bisected, the four halves displayed in separate tanks of formaldehyde solution.

In October 2004, Damien Hirst along with 23 other leading artists pledged significant works to Tate’s Collection as part of Tate’s Building the Tate Collection campaign. These works, and others that will follow, represent the realisation of that pledge.

Works in the Collection by the artist include the major installation Pharmacy 1992, the shell cabinet piece Forms Without Life 1991, a suite of 13 prints from The Last Supper 1999 and a print from the series London,Untitled 1992.

Damien Hirst’s practice consistently confronts the viewer with the fragility of life. He is one of the most prominent artists to have emerged from the British art scene in the 1990s. His role not only as an artist but as a curator has proved fundamental in the development of a generation of young British artists who have come to international prominence.

Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol, UK. He lives and works in London and Devon. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Re-Object, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2007), Into Me / Out of Me, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2006), the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Tate Britain (2004), 50th Venice Biennale (2003) and Century City, Tate Modern (2001). Solo exhibitions include Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005) and Archaeological Museum, Naples (2004). Damien Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995.