Memento Damien Hirst
Find out more about Damien Hirst’s Memento series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Memento is a series of 13 etchings by Damien Hirst published in 2008. The subject matter of the Memento series is representative of Hirst’s most celebrated iconography: the skull, the diamond and the butterfly. The series comprises six prints of butterflies, six of skulls and one of a diamond skull, each image sharing the same composition and set against a dark backdrop.
Hirst’s Memento series shores up the duality that structures the core of human experience, depicting objects that represent the constant psychic tussle between life and death, beauty and decay, desire and fear, love and loss. Each print in the series shows a physical manifestation of this set of beliefs and ideas, depicted in meticulous detail so as to emphasise a visceral confrontation with the viewer.
Depicted in beautifully rich detail, the butterflies in the centre of the first four compositions are striking in their colouring and its mimetic quality. Hirst’s concern with depicting his chosen subject matter in photographic detail stems from his work on ‘fact’ painting beginning in 2000. The artist’s aim with such works was to attempt to reproduce photographs in the traditional medium of oil on canvas. The realistic image of the butterfly plays with Hirst’s concern around facts and truth that photographs are assumed to depict.
Much like the butterflies in this series, the skulls that Hirst depicts are each unique and represent human mortality in a clinical way, providing the viewer with a final image of death, the remains of a human face. Fascinated by death as a subject for artistic investigation, Hirst does not represent decay or fear of death, but instead transforms this image of mortality into an aestheticized symbol. Set in dialogue with the butterflies in the first half of the Memento series, the skulls in the second half of the series stand in for the transitory nature of life and resurrection.
Fascinated by death, the skull has featured as an important piece of iconography throughout Hirst’s artistic career. Drawing on traditional art historical themes, the title of the series is indicative of the Latin phrase ‘memento mori’, that translates in English to ‘remember that you will die’ and is a common theme in 17th century still life paintings.
Why is the Memento series so important?
This series is notable in that it was made a year after one of Hirst’s most iconic sculptures, For The Love Of God (2007), that took the form of a diamond-studded skull. The skulls depicted in the Memento series are a stark reminder of death, especially when considered alongside the butterflies that also feature in the first half of the series.
Heavily inspired by Duchamp and the concept of the ‘ready-made’, much of Hirst’s works in printed editions are mimetic and appear like photographs. Taking images and objects from the everyday and hardly making any alterations, Hirst confronts the viewer with questions around what makes something art? Is an object considered an art object because it sits in a museum?
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