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Pharmacy wallpaper

Wallpaper
1997 (designed), 2004 (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Pharmacy restaurant and bar was opened by Damien Hirst and Matthew Freud in 1997, with the support of restaurateurs Liam Carson and Jonathan Kennedy. It represented the extraordinary confluence of the worlds of art, design, PR, celebrity and the London social scene at the height of the YBA (Young British Artists) phenomenon. Hirst was responsible for the interior, which included displays of pharmaceutical packaging in the windows, a molecular structure representing Hirst's DNA on the bar, and artworks including 'The Fragile Truth' pill cabinet and a series of butterfly pieces. The floor was inlaid with images of pills, the waiters wore surgical gowns, and the furniture, ceramics and glassware were all based on medical themes.

The wallpaper shows brightly coloured pills and pharmaceutical products on a background of metallic gold or silver. The pills are arranged as a wall-chart, but the apparently descriptive labels are, in fact, references to passages of the Bible. A precursor of the now ubiquitous fashion for using wallpaper to give a domestic ambience to bars, clubs and gastro-pubs, Hirst's Pharmacy wallpaper was inspired by his drug cabinets and pill paintings. He produced a pictorial pharmacopeia for the walls, the preciousness of the jewel-like capsules and shiny blister-packs enhanced by the gold and silver grounds. The design acknowledges the addictive - and repetitive - aspect of drug-taking, whether those drugs are medicinal, nutritional or recreational. In the context of the restaurant, the wallpaper also (like Hirst's 'Last Supper' prints) implied that most food, the product of industrialised processes, is stuffed with chemical compounds - from artificial colours and flavours to antibiotics and growth hormones. The pills and the medicines are captioned with Biblical incidents, from miracles to damnations; Christ's assertion 'I am the bread of life' is countered in the implacable repeat by the reiteration of plagues and afflictions, and ultimately, Death. Despite our faith in modern medicaments, Hirst implies that the rituals of pill-popping, like the rituals of worship, cannot save us.

Pharmacy closed in 2003 but the wallpaper was produced again in 2004 in an edition of 1000 rolls per colourway, and sold through Hirst's company Other Criteria.


Object details
Category
Object type
Materials and techniques
Five-colour screenprint
Brief description
Roll of wallpaper 'Pharmacy wallpaper', silver screenprinted paper, designed by Damien Hirst, United Kingdom, designed in 1997 and printed 2004
Physical description
Unused roll of wallpaper printed with images of pills and medicines with quotations from the Bible, on a silver ground.
Dimensions
  • Length: 1000cm
  • Width: 53.8cm
Copy number
From an edition of 1000 rolls
Credit line
Given by Victim
Object history
The wallpaper was designed originally for the London restaurant Pharmacy, co-owned by Damien Hirst. The restaurant opened in 1997 and closed in 2003.
Summary
Pharmacy restaurant and bar was opened by Damien Hirst and Matthew Freud in 1997, with the support of restaurateurs Liam Carson and Jonathan Kennedy. It represented the extraordinary confluence of the worlds of art, design, PR, celebrity and the London social scene at the height of the YBA (Young British Artists) phenomenon. Hirst was responsible for the interior, which included displays of pharmaceutical packaging in the windows, a molecular structure representing Hirst's DNA on the bar, and artworks including 'The Fragile Truth' pill cabinet and a series of butterfly pieces. The floor was inlaid with images of pills, the waiters wore surgical gowns, and the furniture, ceramics and glassware were all based on medical themes.



The wallpaper shows brightly coloured pills and pharmaceutical products on a background of metallic gold or silver. The pills are arranged as a wall-chart, but the apparently descriptive labels are, in fact, references to passages of the Bible. A precursor of the now ubiquitous fashion for using wallpaper to give a domestic ambience to bars, clubs and gastro-pubs, Hirst's Pharmacy wallpaper was inspired by his drug cabinets and pill paintings. He produced a pictorial pharmacopeia for the walls, the preciousness of the jewel-like capsules and shiny blister-packs enhanced by the gold and silver grounds. The design acknowledges the addictive - and repetitive - aspect of drug-taking, whether those drugs are medicinal, nutritional or recreational. In the context of the restaurant, the wallpaper also (like Hirst's 'Last Supper' prints) implied that most food, the product of industrialised processes, is stuffed with chemical compounds - from artificial colours and flavours to antibiotics and growth hormones. The pills and the medicines are captioned with Biblical incidents, from miracles to damnations; Christ's assertion 'I am the bread of life' is countered in the implacable repeat by the reiteration of plagues and afflictions, and ultimately, Death. Despite our faith in modern medicaments, Hirst implies that the rituals of pill-popping, like the rituals of worship, cannot save us.



Pharmacy closed in 2003 but the wallpaper was produced again in 2004 in an edition of 1000 rolls per colourway, and sold through Hirst's company Other Criteria.
Collection
Accession number
E.1157-2012

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Record createdOctober 12, 2012
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