Mother and Child (Divided), 1993



Mother and Child (Divided)
Two parts, each (cow): 1900 x 3225 x 1090 mm | 74.8 x 127 x 42.9 in | Two parts, each (calf): 1029 x 1689 x 625 mm | 40.5 x 66.5 x 24.6 in
Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, monofilament, stainless steel, cow, calf and formaldehyde solution
Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2015
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway
Group Exhibition - 2011
Bienal pavilion, São Paulo, Brazil
Solo Exhibition - 2005
Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo, Norway
Group Exhibition - 1995
Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Group Exhibition - 1993
Venice Biennale, Arsenale, Venice, Italy


“Cut us all in half, we’re all the fucking same.”[1]

‘Mother and Child (Divided)’, a cow and calf bisected and preserved in four tanks of formaldehyde, was first exhibited as part of the ‘Aperto 93’ Venice Biennale exhibition. It is a key early ‘Natural History’ work and subsequently formed the focal piece in the 1995 Turner Prize competition, won by Hirst. 

The cows are removed from nature, both through their unorthodox presence within a gallery setting, and by death. The artist explains, “In a way, you understand more about living people by dealing with dead people. It’s sad but you feel more ... my cows cut up in formaldehyde have more personality than any cows walking about in fields.”[2]

The cows, tragic in that they’re amongst “the most slaughtered animals ever”, are used to demonstrate, “an emotional thing which you are dealing with in a very brutal, unemotional way.”[3] The title of the work is simultaneously an acknowledgement of the bisection, and an expression of the violence inherent, “in any sort of relationship, like trying to keep a relationship together when it is falling apart.”[4]

[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On The Way to Work’, (Faber and Faber, 2001) 228.

[2] Damien Hirst cited in ‘An Interview with Damien Hirst’, Stuart Morgan, ‘No Sense of Absolute Corruption’ (Gagosian Gallery, 1996),18-19.

[3] Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 299; Damien Hirst cited in ‘Like People, Like Flies: Damien Hirst Interviewed’, Mirta D’Argenzio, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989–2004’ (Electa Napoli, 2004),145.

[4] Damien Hirst, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ 145.