Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Biography

“It’s amazing what you can do with an 'E' in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw.”

Damien Hirst

Of death, Hirst explains: "You don't like it, so you disguise it or decorate it to make it look like something bearable."

One of the greatest provocateurs in recent art history, Damien Hirst was the infamous art superstar of the 1990s, polarising popular opinion with his surreal, often morbid work. Hirst insists his intention is to spark awe in his audience rather than to gratuitously shock and appal.

Hirst was a leading light in the Young British Artists (YBA) movement which rose to prominence in the early 1990s and which was renowned for shocking and unconventional materials and concepts that challenged the prevailing definition of art. 

One of the greatest provocateurs in recent art history, Damien Hirst was the infamous art superstar of the 1990s, polarising popular opinion with his surreal, often morbid work. Hirst insists his intention is to spark awe in his audience rather than to gratuitously shock and appal.

Hirst was a leading light in the Young British Artists (YBA) movement which rose to prominence in the early 1990s and which was renowned for shocking and unconventional materials and concepts that challenged the prevailing definition of art. The 'Freeze' exhibition that he conceived and curated during his second year at Goldsmiths was pivotal in the development of the movement. It marked a turning point for Hirst and launched the careers of fellow students Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Matt Collishaw, Angus Fairhurst and Michael Landy. The exhibition was attended by a number of influential people in the British art scene, including Charles Saatchi.  'Freeze’ and Hirst’s subsequent warehouse shows inspired Saatchi to sell off much of his contemporary American art collection and invest in Hirst and the new generation of young British artists. Saatchi financed Hirst's 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (1991), a large vitrine containing an Australian tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde. The artwork attracted huge press attention and helped to launch Hirst to worldwide fame.

'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (1991), which was purchased by Saatchi, is perhaps his most infamous work to date and set the tone for much of his career. Death and how we deal with it is central to Hirst's practice: the human difficulty of facing our most primal fears.

Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995. His 'Mother and Child Divided', a four-part sculpture of a bisected cow and her calf suspended in formaldehyde, was berated and celebrated in equal measure, further consolidating his notoriety.

In 2007 he created 'For the Love of God', a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with 8,601 VVS to flawless pavé-set diamonds. The skull's teeth are original. The artwork is a memento mori and proclaims victory over decay and the relentlessness of death. Of death, Hirst explains: "You don't like it, so you disguise it or decorate it to make it look like something bearable." 

Damien Hirst’s art is wide-ranging, including installation, sculpture, painting and drawing. In his relentlessly enterprising, unapologetically-commercial approach to art, Hirst’s career is closely aligned with that of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, the latter of whom has cited him as an influence. Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas, and Tracey Emin have also mentioned Hirst’s impact on their work.

In 2012 Tate Modern in London hosted a retrospective of his work. It was the most visited show in the gallery's history. 

As a leading artist of his generation, Hirst continues to exhibit all over the world. In this decade alone, solo exhibitions have been held in Venice, Washington, Oslo, Doha, London, Thessaloniki, Copenhagen, Florence and Monte Carlo. His works are also held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

Catching the attention of the public and critics from the very outset of his career, Hirst positioned himself at the centre of the art world, and his work commands some of the highest prices on the market. As a result, he is one of the wealthiest artists living today.

 

Damien Hirst
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