Damien Hirst medicine cabinet bought for $780 could sell for millions

An art collector’s bargain buy more than 30 years ago now stands to bring in millions at auction in February.

The sculptural work by artist-provocateur Damien Hirst, titled “Bodies,” resembles a door-less medicine cabinet packed with jars, bottles and boxes of various drugs and treatments, some featuring recognizable brand labels such as Aveeno. Purchased by Robert Tibbles in 1989 for just £600 (about $780), “Bodies” was recently appraised at an estimated £1.2 million to £1.8 million ($1.6 million to $2.3 million), and will be on the auction block at Phillips in February, CNN reports.

The piece is part of Hirst’s “Medicine” series, which featured 12 cabinets all similarly filled with empty drug packaging, and marked the beginning of his unique brand of art, which often employed everyday objects and called into question their utility.

Phillips credits Tibbles, a banker, for his keen eye “at the genesis of a movement that transformed contemporary British art, and ushered a novel artistic language built on rebellion and audacity.”

The auction record for a Hirst work is $13.4 million for “The Golden Calf” — a baby cow submerged in a tank of formaldehyde — which sold in 2008.

“Bodies” is part of a collection of work from the Young British Artists (YBA) movement of the late 1980s and early ’90s. According to Tate, the YBA “became known for their openness to materials and processes, shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude.”

The Robert Tibbles Collection: Young British Artists & More contains more than 30 works — six by Hirst — by artists of this era. The lot is expected to garner some £4 million ($5 million).

“It came straight from Damien’s degree show in 1989, and I paid £600 for it,” Tibbles, 59, told CNN. “Damien came to put it up in the flat with a mate of his, and I remember going into the kitchen and hearing, ‘Higher than that, Charles, higher than that!’ ”

Tibbles points out that the individual pieces within Hirst’s “Medicine” series are all named after the Sex Pistols album “Never Mind the Bollocks” (1977), “which makes it even more peculiar, idiosyncratic and enjoyable,” he said.

He added, “The medicine cabinet has always produced the strongest reaction of all the works in my collection.”

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