'Love, Life, Death, and Desire' Exhibition Opens at Yale Center for British Art

  • October 14, 2020 11:02

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Damien Hirst, In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) (detail), 1991, © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2020.
William Shiels, Discussing a Catch of Salmon in a Fishing- Lodge, ca. 1840, oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art.
George Romney, Anne Wilson and Her Daughter, Sybill, between 1776 and 1777, oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art.
Joseph Wright of Derby, Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight, Silius Italicus, 1779, oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art.

Damien Hirst’s seminal installation In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) is presented alongside works of historic, modern, and contemporary art. 

The Yale Center for British Art presents its first new special exhibition since reopening to the public. Thirty years ago, Damien Hirst’s seminal installation In and Out of Love was shown for the first time. It subsequently launched his career as one of the most prominent artists his generation and was coexistent with London’s rise as a global hub for contemporary art. To mark this milestone, In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) will be shown in its entirety for the first time in many years, alongside works of historic, modern, and more contemporary art from the Center’s collections. Titled Love, Life, Death, and Desire: An Installation of the Center’s Collections, this display will be on view from October 1, 2020, through February 28, 2021.

“I am excited to welcome visitors into the Center’s third-floor galleries following a successful public reopening,” says Director Courtney J. Martin. “Love, Life, Death, and Desire highlights the depth of our collection and presents how artists over the centuries have engaged with some of the most consuming themes related to the human condition.”

Taking up two floors of the Woodstock Street Gallery between June 21 and July 26, 1991, Hirst’s first solo exhibition comprised a room of live butterflies and an installation titled Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays. Today, the permanent half of that iconic installation is part of the Center’s collection—featuring eight paintings in bright pastel colors, each with dead butterflies pressed into their surfaces of high gloss paint; four ashtrays loaded with cigarette butts on a table; and four large cubes, each with a hole on every side.

Among the other highlights that will be on view in the Center’s third-floor galleries are Henry Fuseli’s tragic Dido, first shown at the Royal Academy in 1781; Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding’s sublime celebration of nature in A Scene on the Coast, Merionethshire—Storm Passing Off (1818); Angelica Kauffman’s hymn to love in Rinaldo and Armida (1771); and Christopher Le Brun’s poetic meditation on beauty in Kingdom (2015).

Love, Life, Death, and Desire is an unmissable opportunity to experience one the Center’s most important contemporary works of art,” says Chief Curator of Art Collections Matthew Hargraves. “Hirst’s In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) tackles the relationship between art and life through the theme of love. The accompanying installation of historic and modern art from the collection invites visitors to take a meditative walk exploring beauty in art and nature, love and longing, and death and loss, and to ponder how all art might be a way to create something enduring after we are gone.”    

Nineteen works were selected that address the core themes of Hirst’s own art: love and death; beauty and suffering; permanence and fragility; the symbolic and the real; the relationships between people, places, and things; and the ambiguous boundary between art and life.


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