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058a&b – Damien Hirst Pharmacy Shelf

By 15th May 2017Mailart

Me and Elena bicker constantly about modern art. She is convinced  that all modern art is worthless, whereas I argue that it’s important to clarify what parts of modern art she’s referring to and that imagination is more important than representation. If you ever get a chance, just mention how much you love going to Tate Modern to her and you’ll see what I mean.

However, there is one modern artist who I have to say completely makes my blood boil in the way it does Elena’s.

Damien Hirst, the enfant terrible of the 90s art scene, gets right up my nose.

It all started in the early 90s. A year after he hit the scene with his shark and cow in formaldehyde, he exhibited this piece,  in the Tate. I was 12 years old at the time.

However, I had worked in my family’s pharmacy for about 4 years already by then, stacking the shelves after school with my mum and the sight of a pharmacy shelf stacked with medicines was something really very ordinary. My mum made this “artwork” every day, except her art was not only ever-changing, it was also actually useful to people.

Damien Hirst had a very unusual preoccupation with Pharmacies, and this was noted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, who subsequently took legal action against him, for misleading the public when he opened a bar in Notting Hill called “Pharmacy”. Hirst himself obviously revelled in the attention and it didn’t do his career any harm.

However, as a qualified pharmacy assistant at 16, I couldn’t help but be offended by this buffoon, peddling his “art” under the respectable guise of our profession.  Thankfully in 2003, the place closed although he’s now opened another, called pharmacy2, which is already in the sights of the RPSGB. No doubt Damien is rubbing his hands again at the thought of the free publicity. What an arse.

However, his work did provide me with the basis for this work, though I had to hold back from just ripping it apart.

I sincerely hope that Damien sees this and considers himself cheated of his intellectual property.


Author andytgeezer

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • stripygoose says:

    What a back-story!
    Love the way your version of the shelf-contents looks like a city skyline.

    • andytgeezer says:

      I thought exactly the same thing as I was drawing them, about the skyline. Each shelf was like a little cityscape. I got the idea for outlining the medicine cabinet from a book called “The Creative License”, which suggests looking in your medicine cabinet and drawing the outline without looking at the paper, so had meant to do this for a while

  • A very entertaining piece, I didn’t know how anti-Damien Hirst you were (I do now!) but it does go to show that one person’s “art” can be taken from the everyday and then elevated into that position. What about Tracey Emin’s bed? Perhaps you should tweet this piece to DH?

    • andytgeezer says:

      I hope Damien sues me for copyright infringement. I’m sure it won’t do Mailart365 any harm either.

      I guess part of the reason I see this as trash is that it’s a sight that is really familiar to me in a useful context. Whereas Campbell’s Soup is not something I grew up with, so I think Andy Warhol’s piece is great. To me Warhol’s piece highlights the art inherent in the mass produced designs that we take for granted.

      To be fair, Damien would update the medicines in his cabinet to ensure that all were contemporary, but even this is not really realistic, as there would often be old pieces on the real shelves. I suppose that for me Damien Hirst’s piece was not authentic enough and does little to highlight the utility of the pharmacy shelf, whereas Warhol’s piece makes you appreciate the unsungn heroes of industrial design

      • andytgeezer says:

        There’s also a question of technique. Whereas Andy Warhol used a screenprinting technique for his, I can only imagine that Damien Hirst just visited B&Q and put up some shelves. I can’t fault Hirst on his use of Foramaldehyde in the shark and cow pieces, but what exactly is he employing in the making of this piece that makes it so worthy of our attention!?

        Yes, I hate him

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