Entitled, 'Signification (Hope, Immortality and Death in Paris, Now and Then)' (2014), Hirst's contemporary cabinet of curiosities has been donated by the artist to aid Deyrolle and Victim, the UK charity founded by the artist that supports organisations working with numerous causes including health, disabilities and education for children, as well as the survival of indigenous communities around the world. The cabinet will be on display in the Deyrolle emporium at 46 Rue du Bac on Paris’s Left Bank from September 23rd to October 28th.
Testament to Hirst’s enduring love of natural history, 'Signification' is a Wunderkammer, a contemporary cabinet of curiosities that follows a historical tradition dating back to the sixteenth century. The style of the cabinet derives from Hirst's iconic series of stainless steel and glass ‘Instrument Cabinets’, conceived in the early 90s. Here, he has filled the wall-mounted structure with a cornucopia of taxidermy, entomology and skeletons, chosen by the artist from Deyrolle’s extraordinary collection of natural specimen, which are displayed alongside manmade or appropriated objects. Each curiosity object in the cabinet has a corresponding paired item—signed and mounted—which the artist has grouped into 50 additional lots for auction in support of Deyrolle. 'Signification' explores themes fundamental to the artist’s work, namely the complex relationships between nature and science, myth and reality, art and beauty and life and death.
Wunderkammer were conceived in Europe as visual encyclopaedias. Addressing the areas of intersection between atavistic myth, science and belief, they combined the produce of man (arteficialia) and nature (naturalia) in order to create a vision of the world, as envisaged by the collector. Hirst explains of the artwork: “I love natural history and have since my first visit at age five to the City Museum in Leeds—it’s the immediate visual impact of it, the wonder, you just can’t help but go ‘wow’! Being able to use Deyrolle’s incredible collection to create my own contemporary Wunderkammer is just amazing. People have been making curiosity cabinets for almost 500 years, and it’s something that's always fascinated me: they inhabit a space between life and death that says so much about who we are as humans, and who we might want to be.”