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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the MFAH in person to discover your own favorites.
 
© 2010 Hirst Holdings Limited and Damien Hirst. All rights reserved, ARS, New York / DACS, London
 
 
DAMIEN HIRST
British, born 1965
End Game
2000–2004
Glass, stainless steel, human skeletons, and medical equipment

77 x 148 x 20 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Jereann and Holland Chaney in memory of Robert H. Chaney

Arts of Europe
 
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With End Game, Damien Hirst confronts us with the fact that we are mortal. At once repellent and beautiful, the sculpture focuses on two human skeletons, male and female. Flanking the skeletons are two cases containing an array of the kind of medical equipment commonly used in an operating theater or morgue. Although the implements seem to be found objects, they were commissioned by the artist, fabricated to his exact specifications and engraved with his last name.

For Hirst, the surgical instruments represent both the miracle and horror of modern medicine. The title End Game refers to the final stage of a chess match. Endgame is also the name of a Samuel Beckett play in which four characters face the inevitability of their demise. Rooted in the history of art, End Game specifically addresses the idea of vanitas. Latin for vanity, the word describes a type of painting common in Northern Europe during the 17th century. These still-life compositions represent the fleeting nature of existence, using symbols like hourglasses, rotting fruit and flowers, and—most notably—skulls. End Game reinvents the conventions of the vanitas picture for modern times, insisting that viewers recognize the fragility of life and their own reluctance to acknowledge death.