Forms Without Life, 1991



Forms Without Life
1829 x 2743 x 305 mm | 72 x 108 x 12 in
Glass, painted MDF, pine, ramin, steel and shells
Image: Photograph © Tate, London 2012 © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2012
The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, United Kingdom


"I like them because they once contained life."[1]

‘Forms Without Life’ and ‘Life Without You’ are two early works incorporating different presentations of sea shells. Hirst originally intended them for inclusion in ‘Internal Affairs’, a series dating from 1991 shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Eventually, however, ‘Forms Without Life’ and ‘Life Without You’ were excluded from the auto-biographical series because he felt they were “too beautiful. Or the shells are anyway.”[2]

Acting together to reinforce their differences, the pair address the implications of displaying works either on the wall or the floor, a distinction which Hirst addressed in the 'Mental Escapology' series. Whilst the shells in ‘Life Without You’ are laid out openly as if on a school nature table, ‘Forms Without You’ typifies the ninteenth century passion for placing items of curiosity within wall cabinets. Hirst explains the appeal of the glass-fronted cabinet as something that allows you to, “get hold of [the work] mentally but not physically somehow”.[3] 

Following the Tate Collection’s acquisition of ‘Forms Without Life’ in 1992, Hirst gifted the gallery ‘Life Without You’. 

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Damien Hirst & Sophie Calle’, ‘Internal Affairs’ (ICA/Jay Jopling, 1991), unpag.

[2] ibid.

[3] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 39