The Agony and the Ecstasy


Household gloss on canvas with butterflies (diptych)

213.4 x 213.4 cm (84 x 84 in.) (each)

Two paintings, one black, the other white, form an inseparable diptych. They are both dotted with butterflies of various colours and sizes. These vibrant "patches of colour" make up a minimalist garden where life is suspended, silent.

One day in his studio, Damien Hirst saw flies stuck on a still-wet canvas. Inspired by what he calls a "painting accident", he artificially recreated it over and over again by gluing the bodies of dead butterflies to monochrome canvases painted in bright colours or black. He incorporated a number of these works into his famous installation "In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays)".

A cross between a still life and a cosmic landscape, the diptych The Agony and the Ecstasy perfectly exemplifies Damien Hirst's attraction to an "immortalisation" of death. In the Pinault Collection, it was presented for the first time during the exhibition "Agony and Ecstasy" at Songeun Artspace in Seoul (2011).
Damien Hirst's other artwork