Damien Hirst commissioned to build chapel for Aix-en-Provence estate

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British artist Damien Hirst has been commissioned to build a chapel at Château La Coste, the 600-acre estate of hotelier Paddy McKillen in Aix-en-Provence. In a preview of an exhibition Hirst is mounting at the chateau, the Financial Times reported the Hirst chapel will join 44 other architectural follies including pavilions by celebrity architects Frank Gehry and Oscar Niemeyer.

The Financial Times reported fifteen years ago Hirst and McKillen began “chipping at each other over lunch and dinner”, about creating a building on the property. “I didn’t want to have a plonked sculpture,” McKillen said. “Everything here has to have the architect or the artist’s heart and soul.” 

The idea evolved to become a chapel – a 100ft bronze hand rising from the ground to point skyward. Under construction at a Cotswold foundry the building will take the form of two tiny embracing figures dwarfed by the giant bronze palm they are standing on. 

“I designed this arm as a sculpture,” says Hirst. “It was based on a hand holding a mobile phone. But it was a bit like Christ’s fingers. And then I thought, it’s like a spire. It was [McKillen’s] idea to put steps inside it so you could go up it.”  

When asked if the space will be consecrated, McKillen said: “You know, my parents were religious. I’m not incredibly, but I just think it creates a spirit here.” 

“Damien Hirst: The Light That Shines” is presented by HENI. It is on view at Château La Coste until June 23, 2024.