I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am Damien Hirst
Find out more about Damien Hirst’s I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
The words ‘I Once Was What You Are,You Will Be What I Am Now’ are a direct translation from the Latin epitaph: ‘Quod tu es, ego fui, quod ego sum, tu eris’. Hirst uses these words to title each of the six signed photogravure etchings in this series, and as a title for the series as a whole. Produced in 2007 in an edition of 48 these artworks are all signed and numbered by the artist.
Each of the six artworks depicts a different white skull, leering out from a blackened backdrop. The skull has become an icon for death, a universally recognisable symbol that transcends culture and history: the skull and crossbones on a bottle of poison or the Jolly Roger emblazoned on a pirate flag. The skull as memento mori is a symbol found throughout Hirst’s body of work, and the exploration of life, death and immortality is central to many of the artist’s most important artworks.
In 2007 Hirst also produced For the Love of God, a replica skull set with over eight thousand diamonds. Of death he has said ‘You don’t like it, so you disguise it or you decorate it to make it look like something bearable – to such an extent that it becomes something else’. This ‘decoration’ of death can of course be found in For the Love of God and also in this series. The skull is a potent reminder of the inevitable, but also something to be appreciated on a visual level.
In isolation the skulls pictured in this series can be taken as a symbol, but in their group the differences between individual skulls becomes apparent; a gap between teeth or an offset jaw suddenly becomes the makings of individuality, even personality. These skulls become more than icons but representatives of their former selves, heightening their message: ‘I once was what you are, you will be what I am’.
Why is I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am so important?
This series comes at an important time in Hirst’s career, some years after his debut as the ‘enfant terrible’ of the contemporary art world Hirst continues to make headline news. For the Love of God, produced in the same year, is the most expensive artwork ever made; in 2008 Hirst took a collection of new work straight to auction with Sothebys, bypassing galleries and his major collectors.
I Once Was What You Are, You Will Be What I Am is a visually striking and highly relevant series produced at a prolific point in Hirsts’s career. Whether purchased as the entire group of six or as an individual artwork, these prints make for a highly covetable addition to any collection.
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