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.

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Damien Hirst, British, born 1965
End Game
Glass, stainless steel, human skeletons, and medical equipment
77 × 148 × 20 in. (195.6 × 375.9 × 50.8 cm)
Credit Line

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

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
Accession Number

[Gagosian Gallery, New York]; The Chaney Family Collection, Houston, 2006–2008; given to MFAH, 2008.