Viewing Record 4 of 14 Queering the Image

AIDS / HIV Drugs, from the Elton John AIDS Foundation Photography Portfolio I

  • Accession Number:
    2009:284.3
  • Artist:
    Hirst, Damien
  • Date:
    2008
  • Medium:
    Inkjet print
  • Dimensions:
    image: 18 1/2 in x 15 in; paper: 24 in x 20 in
  • Credit Line:
    Museum purchase

About the Photographer

Hirst, Damien

British, b. 1965

For over two decades, Damien Hirst’s art practice has confronted cycles of life, death and decay through works that query the margins of mortal existence. He uses a diverse array of biological materials, such as dead animals preserved in formaldehyde and a diamond-encrusted cast of a human skull, to suggest humanity’s limited control over the natural world and the eventual collapse of our own bodies.

The photograph depicts an arrangement of three antiretroviral pills that are commonly taken in combination as treatment for HIV and AIDS. Arranged simply, the colorful display of medicine has a formal beauty that is at odds with the devastating effects of the disease it treats. Hirst initially created a similar sculptural piece showing enough daily-dose drugs to last a lifetime, but later revisited the concept, and reduced its form to a photograph of a single dose inside of a medicine cabinet. The new configuration suggests the power of three tiny tablets to prolong the body’s fight against illness while also evoking the preciousness of life.

The MoCP purchased Hirst’s photograph as part of the Elton John AIDS Portfolio, a collection of ten photographs sold to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 2008, Hirst donated works of art that raised $19 million for various HIV/AIDS related charities; funds that were used to treat millions of people infected with the disease in Africa. According to a World Health Organization survey, in 2009 only 42% of individuals infected with this deadly virus could access drug therapy in low- and middle-income countries around the world. This photograph serves as a means of aid to the widespread need for medication and also as a modest reminder that the fight for a cure has not yet been won.

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol, England and attended Goldsmiths College of Art at the University of London. In 1988, while still a student, he curated Freeze, an exhibition of student work that was instrumental in defining a prominent group of artists in the 1990s called the Young British Artists (YBA’s). Hirst went on to become one of the world’s wealthiest living artists and sold his work at a Sothebys auction in 2008, independent of a gallery, for a record sum of $198 million. He received the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995 and has exhibited widely, including shows at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY (2006), the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2003), and the Tate Modern, London, England (2001). The artist lives and works in London and Devon.