Turner prize winning English artist Damien Hirst first gained prominence as a key member of the Young British Artist movement of the 1990s amongst notable figures such as Tracy Emin, Marc Quinn, Rachel Whiteread and Gavin Turk. His prints, paintings and sculptures often include skulls, sharks and butterflies, and relentlessly interrogate the boundaries between art, science, the media and popular culture.
Damien Hirst is best known for artworks such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde and Pharmacy, a life-size recreation of a chemist’s shop. Other well known works include Away from the Flock, God, The Virgin Mother, Painting by Numbers, Faithless, For the Love of God and The Souls butterfly colourways as well as his Spot and Spin prints.
Constantly dynamic, Damien Hirst’s work takes diverse forms, from the aesthetically pleasing spill and spot paintings to controversial Butcher Shop series in which dead sheep, shark and cows are preserved and displayed in glass cases. It was this innovative creativity that famously caught the attention of collector Charles Saatchi. Damien Hirst has been praised in recognition of his celebrity and the way this has galvanised interest in the arts, raising the profile of British art.
Born in Bristol Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds and studied at Goldsmiths College, London. Most notable amongst the exhibitions he curated whilst at college was Freeze in 1988, as this show launched the careers of many successful young British artists, including his own. Over a decade later, Damien Hirst retains all of the notoriety demonstrated at early shows. In June 2007, Beyond Belief, an exhibition of Damien Hirst’s work, opened at the White Cube gallery in London. The centre-piece, titled For the Love of God, was a human skull recreated in platinum and adorned with 8,601 diamonds weighing a total of 1,106.18 carats. Approximately £15,000,000 worth of diamonds were used and it was modelled on an 18th century skull with the only surviving human part of the original being the teeth.
In September 2008 Damien Hirst took an unprecedented move for a living artist by selling a complete show Beautiful Inside My Head Forever at Sotheby’s. The auction exceeded all predictions, raising £111 million and breaking the record for a one-artist auction as well as Damien Hirst’s own record with £10.3 million for The Golden Calf, an animal with 18-carat gold horns and hooves, preserved in formaldehyde. Damien Hirst is reputed to be the richest living artist to date with Hirst’s wealth valued at £215m in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List.
Damien Hirst’s work can be found in several important collections worldwide, including Tate and British Council, London, MoMA, New York, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Broad Art Foundation; Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands; Neue Galerie Graz, Austria and State Museum of Berlin.