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Top 5 Artists Whose Work is Inspired by Pharma and Pharmacy

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Want to learn more about artists who are inspired by the pharmaceutical industry? Join Darshan Kulkarni as he discusses the artists whose work he follows. These individuals create pieces which raise awareness about ongoing health crises among the general public, and open up commentary on issues such as the opiod epidemic going on in the United States.

Darshan: As some of you may have discovered I have an interest in art and in expression, and this podcast is going to talk a little bit about five artists whose installations involve pharma. The first artist is Robert Porzynski and he described his art as "My paintings are continuation of 20th century artists' traditions, serialism, objective and non objective abstraction, and the syntheses of these different visual languages continually lead to new and unexpected outcomes." His collection is called Pharmaceuticals. The second artist is an artist called Dominic Esposito. And Dominic is very interesting because he was responding to the opioid crisis, which is still ongoing. However, it seems to be caught up in what's going on with COVID. And what he did was, when the Sackler family was found to be heavily involved in the opioid crisis, he left what he described as the opioid spoon outside one of their facilities.

Darshan: And the impact of that was that it was seen by the entire world, and he was reacting to his own personal pain associated with the opioid crisis. And he described the opioid spoon as a dark and macabre symbol of hopelessness. And he left at the entrance of Rhodes Pharma. And I just thought that was a really interesting and moving piece. The third artist, and I seem to have a bend, to be fair, around pop contemporary art, so you may find that to be interesting. Beverly Fishman is the third artist I was thinking of, and she is a visual artist whose work explores the rule and representation of pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry in contemporary culture. She creates sculptures, paintings, large construction installations with hyper saturated colors, and industrial like slick surfaces that evoke the design of pills, the combinations of drug cocktails, and the colors in the surfaces of drug advertising. She also comments on drug over-prescription and the dependence and the ways medications not only treat but define illnesses.

Darshan: So we've got three artists so far, Robert Porzynski, Dominic Esposito, Beverly Fishman. The fourth one is an artist called Ben Frost, and he's an Australian pop artist. And what he did was he took these boxes associated with these different drugs and actually painted on them and drew on them. And he took generic and brand named Valium, fentanyl, morphine, Oxy, Viagra, and other popular packages, if you flattened them, embellish them with acrylic paints in pop art, Lichtenstein inspired women, retro looking illustrated children, and pop culture characters from the Simpsons and Peanuts. I think that's kind of interesting. It's commentary almost. And the fifth one... So we've got Robert Porzynski, Dominic Esposito, Beverly Fishman, Ben Frost, and the fifth one is Damien Hirst. And if you're in the world right now around contemporary pop art, his work is very, very popular. He has several pieces and he's, he's pretty obsessed with pharmacy and pharma.

Darshan: He has a piece called Pharmacy, which is a room-sized installation representing a pharmacy. It was conceived as a site specific installation, and initially showed at the Cone Gallery in New York in 1992. He used glass fronted cabinets of the type found in a lab or hospital, stacked with pharmaceutical drugs as well as well as other objects, and he arranged them on shelves. So essentially it looks like a pharmacy when you look at it. He also did sculptures of 100 milligram Viagra tablets, and he had some [inaudible 00:03:49] bottles and [inaudible 00:03:52] syrup, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And they went from anywhere from $4,000 for additional 30, all the way to $30,000 and even a lot more. A set of 30 Warhol S prints depicting 30 milligrams morphine sulfate immediate release was also put out. So I thought that was really interesting.

Darshan: So your five artists were, let's see Robert Porzynksi, Dominic Esposito, Beverly Fishman, Ben Frost, and Damien Hirst. Did I miss anyone? Was there someone of note that I probably should have talked about? Feel free to leave a comment. If you think that there's an artist we should think about, or some art piece that we should think about, leave a comment, or just hit the like button. Look forward to hearing from you.

Narrator: This is the Darshan Talks Podcast. Regulatory guy, irregular podcast, with hosts. Darshan Kulkarni. You can find the show on Twitter at DarshanTalks or the show's website at

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