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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… 显示更多 Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

Barium Carbonate-13C

97 x 97 in. (246.4 x 246.4 cm.)
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 2011.
D. Hirst, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, London, 2013, p. 844 (illustrated in color, no. 380).
G. Faigin, "Review: Who knew? Paul Allen Collection does abstraction at Pivot Art + Culture," in Seattle Times, 21 May 2017.
Doha, ALRIWAQ DOHA Exhibition Space, Damien Hirst: Relics, October 2013-January 2014, pp. 44- 45 and 295 (illustrated in color).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, Color & Pattern, April-July 2017.
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas


One of the artist’s celebrated Spot Paintings, Damien Hirst’s Barium Carbonate-13C is a dazzling kaleidoscope of vibrant color set against an unfathomable black ground. Painted between 2005 and 2006, this work belongs to the “Carbon-13 Labelled Compounds” group from this important series, a body of work which has sustained him for much of his 30 year career. Within the parameters of his monumental grid, Hirst lays out row upon row of colored dots. In the case of the present work, this expansive field is made even more impressive by placing them against a rich black backdrop, creating a field of extraordinary chromatic effects.

By removing all traces of the artist’s hand, the Spot Paintings were deliberately designed to appear “like a person trying to paint like a machine,” creating a canvas filled with order and logic. However, the opposite is true, and Hirst reveled in the infinite number of compositional possibilities that arose from the arbitrary placement of the colors. “With the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any king of art,” the artist explained, “Which is the harmony of where colour can exist on its own, interacting with other colors in a perfect format” (D. Hirst, I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now, London, 2006, p. 120).

Speaking to the artist Sophie Calle in an interview to mark his first major solo exhibition – at the ICA in London in 1991 – Hirst commented “If you look at things in the real world under the microscope, you find that they are made up of cells. I sometimes imagine that the Spot Paintings are what my art looks like under the microscope. The difference between art and life is the difference between cells in the real world and the Spot Paintings… a way I can explain more directly how they relate is to think of them all as titled Isolated Elements for the Purpose of Understanding. The spots are separated from all the other spots by their boundary yet the colour takes them beyond that boundary and they communicate with each other… the way they are constructed is very uncompromising – the grid structure allows no emotion. I want them to look like they’ve been made by a person trying to paint like a machine… from this negative structure the end result is always a celebration, no matter how I feel” (D. Hirst, quoted by A. Gallagher, “Colour Space, “ online via Ann-Gallager Colour-Space-essay.pdf (houghtonhall.com) [accessed 10/12/2022]).

Although the “color against black” scheme of Barium Carbonate-13C accentuates the impact of these particular paintings, ultimately, however, the chromatic thrill of these works is underpinned by their inherent existential anxiety. With their seemingly ‘scientific’ structure, these paintings hint at a doctrine of absolute truth, something set within the realm of scientific discovery; this is tempered by the knowledge that however close we come to finally understanding the workings of the world, we are all, in essence, beholden to unknowable machinations of things we cannot ultimately control.

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