Artist Damien Hirst is a polarizing figure in the art world. Hugely prolific, Hirst has been called both an inspiring innovator and a wealth-obsessed marketer. His new collection of jewelry, Cathedral Collection, from Hoorsenbuhs and Other Criteria supports both of these roles: with prices up to £43,200 ($68,000) for a single piece, buyers are paying for the materials and the concept.
The Cathedral Collection consists of “Pill Ring,” a cocktail ring of piled precious metal pills, some visibly filled with rubies and black and white diamonds, and “Pill Rosary,” a variation of the traditional Catholic string of beads. Where the cross would typically sit is instead a Hirst pill, opened and spilling out its literally precious contents. The collection is a limited edition of 25 pieces per design.
Hirst’s focus over the years has continually returned to pharmaceuticals and their role, literally and symbolically, in our lives. His first Pill Cabinet in 2007, “Standing Alone on the Precipice and Overlooking the Arctic Wastelands of Pure Terror,” includes thousands of resin pill replicas displayed on its shelves. He pursed this topic through at least 17 more Pill Cabinet installations, removing the pills from their therapeutic context in order to make new connections with content.
The aesthetic allure of the pills is rendered useless in the face of their unknown medical purpose; Hirst’s suggestion being that their power relies on an unquestioning belief that somehow our ills will be cured.
In 2007 Hirst re-imagined the pills from the cabinets as a limited edition Pill Charm Bracelet, which he sold through his website. 2011 saw Pill Cufflinks.
In this newest collection, the Pill Ring could be a cocktail party conversation starter. The Pill Rosary, though, with its co-opted religious overtones, begs the question: What are we revering? Is it science, bringing medication to placate the world? Or is it Damien Hirst?