Artist Biography - Damien Hirst
A successful and controversial artist, Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. His father was a motor mechanic, who abandoned the family when Hirst was just 12 years old. His mother, Mary Brennan, of Irish Catholic descent, claims that she lost control of her son when he was young but encouraged him to follow his passions for the arts.
In 1984 he ...moved to London, where he studied for a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College from 1986 to 1989. During the artists time at Goldsmiths, he received substantially more than just the knowledge of painting. His perception of sculpture and painting was massively altered during this period, leading to some of his most influential series of works.
Damien Hirst famously curated the 1988 ‘Freeze’ exhibition which showcased his own work alongside that of Mat Collishaw, Gary Hume and Sarah Lucas – Amongst others. Hirst and his fellow students became part of a british movement known as the Young British Artists (YBA's). All of the YBA's were known for their unusual materials and for their challenging art concepts. Graduating from Goldsmiths in 1989, Damien was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and has continued to attract publicity with works exploring themes of death, technology, religion, science and beauty.
Since the late 1980’s, Hirst has used a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between Art, Life and Death. Explaining: “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else” Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience.
In 1991, Hirst had his first solo exhibition at the Woodstock Street Gallery in London as well as participating in the YBA's break through show at the Saatchi Gallery the following year. This period was a mile stone in the artists career.
Hirst continued to infuriate and fascinate the art world with his art when in 1993 Venice Bienniale, a renowned international art exhibition, he displayed Mother and Child Divided. The controversial installation piece that featured a bisected cow and her calf displayed in four vitrines, or glass cases, filled with formaldehyde.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), preserving a shark in a tank of formaldehyde solution and For the Love of God (2007), a platinum cast skull embellished with 8,601 perfect diamonds, are amongst his most iconic works. Believed to be the world’s most expensive artwork, For the Love of God sold for £50 million and questions the inherent worth of diamonds, death and life. Death is decorated and disguised, the dazzling radiance of the piece proclaiming victory over mortality.
From the outset of his career, Hirst devised a thought out strategy for grabbing the attention from both critics and the public. Rotting animals appalled and attracted museum visitors; critics were equally appalled, not so much by the art as by the high prices paid for it.
His Pharmaceutical series explores how society no longer relies on religion, but upon pills for solutions. Referencing pop art, consumerism and Hirst's belief in the healing powers of art, the sterile orderliness of rows of pills in medical cabinets explores false hopes and beliefs we hold against death. Vitrines and aquariums, used in works such as Mother and Child Divided and The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living seem to isolate and preserve the fragility of life, yet again confront viewers with the inevitability of death.
His controversial piece In and Out of Love (1991) exhibited living butterflies and their life cycles as art. Extended from this concept, Damien’s kaleidoscopic butterfly Psalms are carefully arranged to mimic cathedral windows and call to mind the elegance and beauty of these richly symbolic creatures, showing butterflies to be as graceful and attractive in death as they are in life.
Despite mixed opinions on his artwork, Hirst is a visionary in anticipating the needs of the contemporary art market and some have argued that this in itself is a form of art.
Since 1987, Hirst has had over 80 solo exhibitions have taken place worldwide and his work has been included in over 260 group exhibitions, thus marking him a master of contemporary art.
During 2015, Hirst opened the Newport Street Gallery in London, an establishment which reflects the artists long-term ambition to share his art collection with the public.