Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Artist Matchbooks: Damien Hirst

In 1997, artist Damien Hirst and public relations specialist Matthew Freud opened a restaurant together in Notting Hill, London. The venture was named Pharmacy, after Hirst's 1992 artwork consisting of glass fronted cabinets of arranged pharmaceuticals, which served as the restaurant's decor. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain accused the venture of being in breach of the Medicines Act of 1968, which restricts the use of "pharmacy". They claimed the name and the pill bottles and medical items on display could confuse customers in search of an actual chemist. 

Under threat of legal action, Hirst first changed the venue name to "Army Chap" and then "Achy Ramp", both anagrams of "Pharmacy". Plans to open additional restaurants in other cities were quietly dropped, and Pharmacy itself closed in September of 2003. The artworks were auctioned at Sotheby's and fetched eleven million pounds for Hirst, who had merely loaned them to the venture. 

In the six years that the restaurant was operational, Hirst designed sixty matchbooks for use in the venue, and given away to customers. 

Complete sets are exceedingly rare, and the framed example above sold for €10,000, against an estimate of between €800 - €1,200. 

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