The Sex Pistols, 1996 - 1997



The Sex Pistols
1996 - 1997
Four parts, each: 2700 x 1215 x 250 mm | 106 x 47.8 x 9.8 in
Glass, Formica, MDF, ramin, steel, nickel-plated steel, aluminium, sliding door locks and pharmaceutical packaging
Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012


Solo Exhibition - 2010
L&M Arts, New York, United States


“You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway. You can’t arrest decay but these medicine cabinets suggest you can.”[1]

Hirst began work on the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ whilst in his second year at Goldsmiths with ‘Sinner’ (1988). Constructing the MDF unit at home, he filled it with the empty packaging of his grandmother’s medication, which he'd requested she left him on her death.

In their arrangement of objects the cabinets link Hirst’s earlier collages (1983 - 1987) to his later work. The used packages that fill the cabinets, described by Hirst as “empty fucking vessels”, were originally arranged as if the cabinet were itself a body, with each item positioned according to the organs it medically related to. However, this system did not last and the “minimalist delicious colours” of the designs swiftly became the most important criterion for their arrangement within each cabinet. Hirst has likened the minimalist packaging to the work of Sol Le Witt and Donald Judd: “They’re not flamboyant are they? They’re not allowed to sell themselves, except in a very clinical way. Which starts to become funny.”[2]

The works explore the distinction between life and death, myth and medicine. Hirst notes: “You take a medicine cabinet and you present it to people and it’s just totally believable. I mean a lot of the stuff is about belief, I think, and the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ are just totally believable.”[3]

Hirst made this quadtych ‘The Sex Pistols’ between 1996 and 1997. The cabinets followed Hirst’s titling of the first series of twelve cabinets after the tracks off the Sex Pistol’s album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ (1977). Of the importance of The Sex Pistols and punk, Hirst has explained: “the whole thing that got me really with the Sex Pistols, was it seemed like the world had exploded. People went mental, didn’t they?”[4] The set of four cabinets was exhibited for the first time in a retrospective survey of the series presented by L & M Gallery in New York in 2010, ‘Medicine Cabinets’.

[1] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Life’s Like This and Then It Stops’, Adrian Dannatt (Flash Art, no. 169, 1993)

[2] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 211

[3] ibid., 24, 79

[4] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst/Steve Jones ‘Interview’, ‘The Complete Medicine Cabinets’ (Other Criteria/L & M Gallery, 2010), 163-164