LONDON, ENGLAND.- Sothebys is delighted to announce the sale of the contents of the Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill. The restaurant, which was at the centre of London's vibrant restaurant scene from 1998 to 2003, was designed by Damien Hirst, from the butterfly paintings which hung on the walls of the first-floor restaurant, to the aspirin-shaped bar stools and conical flask light fittings that adorned the ground floor. In an unprecedented sale by a living artist, over 140 lots, including original paintings and drawings of the artist's designs, will be offered at auction on Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at Sotheby's in New Bond Street, when they are expected to fetch in excess of £3 million.
Oliver Barker, Senior Director of Sotheby's Contemporary Art department, said: "When Pharmacy opened in 1998 it was a landmark restaurant, typifying everything that was happening in Britain at that time, in terms of art, food, celebrity, New Labour and Cool Britannia. The sale will provide an opportunity not just for collectors but people at every level to buy an original piece of art work from that exciting period by Damien Hirst, one of the leaders of the contemporary art scene."
Described by American Vogue as "the west London eatery which takes restaurant design to an artsy extreme", Pharmacy was one of the first restaurants in London to combine the eating experience with cutting-edge art. Inspired by Damien Hirst's Pharmacy installation from 1992 now in the Tate Collection, the restaurant quite literally resembled a chemist's shop - so much so that people frequently confused it for one, often coming in with their prescriptions. At one point in its history, the name was strongly contested by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, who claimed that it would confuse people who were looking for a real chemist. They threatened legal action and so the name was temporarily changed to Army Chap - an anagram of Pharmacy. As the artist recalled: "A woman asked me once for an aspirin and I had to say I'm sorry we have a strictly no drugs policy here."
All four walls of the bar were fitted with Hirst's pharmaceutical cabinets, the staff wore uniforms designed by Prada, inspired by surgical gowns and lab coats, and the artist's paintings hung on the walls. Comparison can be made with other artist designed restaurants, such as Philip Johnson's Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York, which in 1958 commissioned the American artist Mark Rothko to produce murals for the restaurant's walls - the intention being that they would be an integral part of the architecture. Although never installed, their presence at Tate Modern is a clear indication of the command they would hold over the room for which they were intended. The objective was to create a challenging but great place for people to be.
Born in Leeds in 1965, Damien Hirst became synonymous with the dynamic group of British artists who took the international art scene by storm in the 1990s. The Pharmacy project completely absorbed Hirst's creative energies for over a year and stood as a monument to his central artistic concerns. The sale will feature the entire range of objects that he designed for the restaurant. This will include 10 butterfly paintings in a range of beautiful colours, 11 wall-mounted medicine cabinets and a unique molecular model sculpture (estimate: £100,000-150,000). The rich eclecticism of the sale will also provide an opportunity to acquire crockery and glassware that was specially designed by the artist, as well as furniture, ashtrays (estimate: £100-150), and stained glass windows. The sale will feature original drawings which offer a tantalising glimpse of how the overall design was first conceived and then became reality (estimates from £2,000). Estimates will range from £50 up to £300,000, and provide a unique opportunity for the broadest range of collectors.
In addition to the works from the restaurant, Hirst is donating a specially produced vibrant seven foot diameter pill painting, a one-off, from a series which he has not developed since 1990. It will be sold to benefit Scope, the charity for disabled people, of which the artist is an ardent supporter. Last February Sotheby's sold two works by Hirst in aid of Scope, Charity (Maquette), which sold for £140,000 and a butterfly painting, A Beautiful Thing to do, which sold for £240,800.
When Pharmacy opened in 1998 it was co-owned by Damien Hirst, Matthew Freud, Liam Carson, of the Groucho Club and Momo's, and Jonathan Kennedy, Freud's partner of eight years and one of the creators of the Quo Vadis restaurant. Aside from the unique decor, the menu of British comfort food and French cuisine was an instant success with both food critics and clientele. It closed in September last year.
As Damien Hirst said: "I was very disappointed when Pharmacy closed. It was like losing a friend and I didn't know what to do with all the stuff. My original intention was to make a great place for people to be - maybe a little surreal like eating in a chemist - but great nonetheless, and it worked. I think auctioning all the stuff is a great idea as that way everybody gets a chance to own a piece. I mean, I can only use so many plates and pots and pans myself..."