Damien Hirst’s Medicine Cabinet for His Degree Show Could Fetch £1.2m at Auction

Damien Hirst’s sculptural work Bodies, one of the medicine cabinets created by the artist for his degree show in 1989 will go up for auction in London next month. The work was acquired by the present owner for £600 and it is now estimated to fetch between £1.2m-1.8m (US$1.56m-2.3m).

Bodies is one the first medicine cabinets created by Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst is a British contemporary artist and a leading figure of the Young British Artists (YBAs) group. The label loosely applies to a group of British artists who began to exhibit together in 1988 and who became known for their openness to materials and processes, shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude.

As one of the most celebrated artists of the YBAs, Hirst ascended to stardom by making objects that shocked and appalled, and that possessed conceptual depth in both profound and prankish ways. Hirst has studded human skulls in diamonds and submerged sharks, sheep and other dead animals in custom vitrines of formaldehyde.

A group of YBAs artist was preparing for Freeze in 1988

The Michael Craig-Martin (left), Grenville Davey and Damien Hirst (lower one)

When Damien Hirst was still a student at Goldsmiths College of Art, he organised an exhibition called Freeze in 1988, which was seen as a convenient starting point of the YBAs. One of Hirst’s teachers at Goldsmiths College of Art was Michael Craig-Martin, the Godfather of Britart.

The medicine cabinet to be offered at auction was created by Damien Hirst for his degree show in 1989. It is one of early works from his seminal Medicine Cabinet series which includes 12 cabinets, each takes its name from the twelve title tracks of the legendary album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

Marcel Duchamp’s Bottle Rack

Bodies at Tibbles’ home

A London-based bond trader and art collector Robert Tibbles bought the piece for £600 from the late German dealer Karsten Schubert, who was a close associate of the artist Michael Craig-Martin. Damien Hirst even installed the work at Tiblles’ flat by himself.

Tibbles says, “I lived with that medicine cabinet for seven years with people telling me it was crap, and that I should send it back.” But Tibbles thought it was a very clever work, which reminded him of Duchamp’s Bottle Rack. Both artworks invite people to look at something incredibly ordinary in a different way.

Damien Hirst’s Antipyrylazo III at Tibbles’ home

Michael Craig-Martin’s 2000 artwork Full is also part of Tibbles collection

Bodies is among the 30 works in Tibbles collection to be offered at auction at Phillips London. Five other works by Hirst will also be featured in the sale, including Antipyrylazo III – the artist’s 1994 work featuring 2,050 hand-painted spots – with an estimate of £900,000-1.2m.

Full, a monumental painting by Michael Craig-Martin, will also go up for auction with an estimate of £80,000 – 120,000, likely to be a world record price for the artist.

Damien Hirst’s auction record was by The Golden Calf a dead calf in a tank of formaldehyde which was sold for US$13.4m in 2008.

Damien Hirst. Bodies.

Created in: 1989
Estimate: £1,200,000 - 1,800,000

Damien Hirst. Antipyrylazo III

Created in: 1994
Estimate: £900,000 - 1,200,000

Michael Craig-Martin. Full

Created in: 2000
Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

Auction details
Auction house: Phillips London
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 13 February 2020