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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

London Gallery Displays Art Made Out of Ecstasy Tablets

Veteran UK raver and artist Chemical X has a new exhibition featuring murals made out of real MDMA. His last drug-exhibit was pulled at the last-minute, so this time he has a back-up plan.

7 Substance

A controversial exhibit at the Bear Cub Gallery in London is both inspired by—and made out of—rave culture’s favorite drug: MDMA, also known as ecstasy, “Molly” or X.

The artist behind the vibrant, psychedelic exhibit, “The Prophets of Ecstasy,” is Chemical X (not his real name), a veteran raver and artist from the UK. Twenty years ago he designed the Ministry of Sound logo, one of rave culture’s most iconic emblems, and went on to work with musical acts like Snoop Dogg and Paul Oakenfold, as well as major brands like Vans and Disney.

This latest art installation is made up of 20,000 ecstasy pills, arranged together in a colorful, stained glass-like mosaic—to illustrate the parallels between religious and rave imagery. ”The smiley was the one clear nod to the rave generation, other than that it is more about the good and the bad of drugs. The highs and the lows,” X explains, in an interview with Vice. ”‘The Rapture’ represents the highs with the sunshine and the rainbow and the bright colors. ‘The Reckoning’ is darker and more monochrome. It speaks of the comedowns—as shown by the shooting star, burning up as it comes down, and the blues that are the price you pay.” To further emphasize the spiritual component of the piece, the gallery itself is in the basement of a church.

X explains that his desire to make art out of ecstasy was inspired by the artistry in the way the drug has been marketed. “I was always fascinated with the variety of colors and designs that ecstasy took and wanted to use them as the pixels making up an image,” he says. During the ’90s, drug dealers would compete with each other to market their wares to the burgeoning rave movement by establishing visually recognizable brands, sometimes incorporating well-known corporate insignias like Mitsubishi and Rolex.

Last year, two of Chemical X’s pieces entitled “Ecstasy of Art,” were pulled from a London gallery at the last minute when the gallery realized that the 12,000 pills in the piece were real MDMA and not replicas. This time, to be safe, he has a back-up plan: “We are trying a combination of hiding in plain sight, having security ready to pack up the pieces as soon as it gets a bit tasty and not directly admitting to anyone about what they are made of.”