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New York City - Never mind that the world financial markets are in turmoil. A rich artist and a clever developer will prove this weekend that excess endures. Mr. Damien Hirst at Lever House. The work, he says, references several modern artists. Mr. Hirst says the work, which is being purchased for Lever House’s collection for $10 million, is an homage to Francis Bacon’s “Painting,” among others.
When the shrouding is removed from Lever House’s lobby at Park Avenue and 54th Street, viewers will confront a veritable Noah’s Ark of roadkill — 30 dead sheep, one dead shark, two sides of beef, 300 sausages, a pair of doves — that the British artist Damien Hirst describes as his most mature piece.
In addition to the art spectacle, illuminated 24 hours a day by fluorescent light, passers-by will also be able to gawk tomorrow night at an invitation-only party for some 2,000 art-world glitterati.
The installation, on view through Feb. 16, was commissioned by the real estate developer Aby Rosen, who owns Lever House, the Seagram Building and the Gramercy Park Hotel, and Alberto Mugrabi, a Manhattan dealer. Mr. Rosen also happens to be one of the country’s leading collectors of contemporary art. The two have jointly purchased Mr. Hirst’s installation, titled “School: The Archaeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity, and the Search for Knowledge,” for $10 million for the Lever House Art Collection.
In 2005, the developer asked the artist if he might be willing to create a work of art for Lever House’s all-glass lobby, which has been a frequent site of temporary art installations. For Mr. Rosen, such commissions are a way of calling attention to the landmark building, which his company, RFR Holding, bought in 1998.
“It’s a great way to make the building more visible by showing great art,” he said, adding that he enjoys seeing how different artists relate to the space.
One afternoon this week, as he supervised crew members unwrapping the frozen sides of beef, Mr. Hirst said, “The sketch took 10 minutes, but it has taken two years to make this.”
Purposely provocative and often disturbing, the artist is perhaps best known for “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” a shark submerged in a tank of formaldehyde that is owned by the hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen and is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Last summer, Mr. Hirst exhibited a $100 million human skull cast in platinum and covered with 8,601 diamonds that attracted thousands to the London gallery White Cube.
Both works seem modest by comparison with his latest stunt. Lining the entire lobby will be some 15 medicine cabinets (a past theme for Mr. Hirst) filled with thousands of empty boxes and bottles with labels for antidepressants, cough medicine and other drugs. The 30 sheep are lined up in rows of formaldehyde-filled tanks, evoking docile schoolchildren in a classroom.
Submerged in a 12-foot-tall tank are two sides of beef, a chair, a chain of sausages, an umbrella and a birdcage with a dead dove. Mr. Hirst describes it as an homage to Francis Bacon’s 1946 “Painting” at the Museum of Modern Art, which depicts cow carcasses suspended in a crucifix shape.
Mr. Hirst said the installation — which cost $1 million to assemble — is in fact a nod to a host of modern artists. “We’ve got everybody in here,” he said. There is Dan Flavin (the strips of fluorescent lighting); Warhol (the notion of repetition, as in the rows of dead sheep); Joseph Cornell (the boxes encasing the dead animals); Jannis Kounellis, who uses live birds in his work; and René Magritte, who painted an egg in a bird cage.
All the components, including the 500-plus gallons of formaldehyde, were flown in from England. Mr. Hirst said he bought the sheep from a butcher and the shark from a supplier, both of them in Cornwall. “We didn’t kill anything — everything was destined for food,” Mr. Hirst said.
Despite the over-the-top decadence of Mr. Hirst’s work, he revels in details. He designed a red stencil that he used randomly to stamp the sheep as though they were branded. The chair submerged in the formaldehyde tank is fashioned from resin but resembles well-worn leather; he designed 20 clocks that will run backward and adorn all the lobby windows.
“It’s my flock,” said Mr. Hirst, surveying his handiwork in the lobby. “An installation without any walls, only glass.”