Damien Hirst’s “This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home” is a Vanitas sculpture that was showcased in his 1996 “No Sense of Absolute Corruption” installation. The piece features two halves of a pig enclosed in a glass tank filled with formaldehyde, mounted on a painted stainless steel frame and motorized base. As part of his “Natural History” series, the artwork is intended to evoke fear and anxiety by exploring themes of confinement and death.
Hirst’s detachment from the animals allows him to approach the subject matter in a humorously grotesque manner. Despite this, there is an underlying darkness to the installation, as the popular nursery rhyme referenced likely refers to these pigs being sold off or slaughtered.
The piece also marks Hirst’s interest in dissecting the human psyche through showcasing bodily organs and flesh as art. Shockingly bold yet strikingly elegant, it has gone on to become one of his most iconic works known for its stark visuals that invoke thought-provoking emotions towards mortality.
Overall, Damien Hirst’s “This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home” may seem disturbing at first glance, but once analyzed can be seen as an exploration into societal issues around consumption culture and how we relate with all creatures big or small.