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Damien Hirst Biography


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Damien Hirst (born June 7, 1965) is an England artist and the leading artist of the group that has been dubbed "Young British Artists" (or YBAs). He dominated the art scene in Britain during the 1990s and is internationally renowned. Death is a central theme in his work. He is best known for his Natural History series, in which dead animals (such as a shark, a sheep or a cow) are preserved, sometimes cut-up, in formaldehyde. His iconic work is The Physical Impossibility Of Death In the Mind Of Someone Living, an 18ft tiger shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine. Its sale in 2004 made him the second most expensive living artist (after Jasper Johns). He is also known for "spin paintings", made on a spinning circular surface, and "spot paintings", which are rows of randomly-coloured circles; these have been imitated in commercial graphics. During the 1990s his career was closely linked with the collector Charles Saatchi, but increasing frictions came to a head in 2003 and the liaison ended.

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol, and grew up in Leeds. His father was a motor mechanic/car salesman, who left the family when Hirst was 12. His mother, Mary, was a lapsed Catholic, who worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau and says she lost control of him when he was young. He was arrested on two occasions for shoplifting. "Shockaholic" on BBC site Retrieved March 19,2006 However, Hirst sees her as someone who would not tolerate rebellion: she cut up his punk bondage trousers and heated one of his Sex Pistols vinyl records on the cooker to turn it into a fruit bowl. He says, "If she didn't like how I was dressed, she would quickly take me away from the bus stop." She did, though, encourage his liking for drawing, which was his only successful educational subject."I Knew It Was Time to Clean up My Act" Daily Telegraph, July 26, 2004 Retrieved March 20, 2006 His art teacher "pleaded" for Hirst to be allowed to enter the sixth form, where he took two A-levels, achieving an "E" grade in art. He went to Leeds College of Art and Design, although the first time he applied he was refused admission. He worked for two years on London building sites, then studied Fine Art at Goldsmith's College, University of London (1986–89), although again he was refused a place the first time he applied. While a student, Hirst had a placement at a mortuary, an experience that influenced his later themes and materials. Hirst has admitted serious drug and alcohol problems during a ten year period from the early 1990s: "I started taking cocaine and drink ... I turned into a babbling fucking wreck."Hirst, Damien and Burn, Gordon (2001). On the Way to Work. Faber During this time he was renowned for his wild behaviour, and extrovert acts, including, for example, putting a cigarette in the end of his penis in front of journalists. He was an habitué of the high profile Groucho Club in Soho, London, and was banned on occasion for his behaviour. In 2002 Hirst gave up smoking and drinking, although the short-term result was that his wife Maia "had to move out because I was so horrible." He met Joe Strummer (former lead singer of The Clash) at Glastonbury in 1995, becoming good friends and going on annual family holidays with him. Just before Christmas 2003, Strummer died of a heart attack. This had a profound effect on Hirst, who said, "It was the first time I felt mortal." He subsequently devoted a lot of time to founding a charity, Strummerville, to help young musicians."I Knew It Was Time to Clean up My Act" Daily Telegraph, July 26, 2004 Retrieved March 19, 2006 He has also taken an interest in Christianity. He is married to a Californian, Maia Norman, and has two sons, Connor, born in 1995 and Cassius, born in 2000. Since the birth of Connor, he has spent most of his time at his remote farmhouse, a 300 year old former inn, in north Devon, England. Maia surfs, but Hirst doesn't. They have a collie, Lucy.

Breakthrough 1988–1991

In July 1988 in his second year at Goldsmiths College, Hirst was the main organiser of an independent student exhibition, Freeze (exhibition), in a disused London Port Authority administrative block in London's Docklands. He gained sponsorship from the London Docklands Development Corporation. The show was visited by Charles Saatchi, Norman Rosenthal and (Sir) Nicholas Serota, thanks to the influence of Goldsmiths' lecturer Michael Craig-Martin. After graduating Hirst was included in New Contemporaries show and in a group show at Kettles Yard Gallery in Cambridge. Seeking a gallery dealer, he first approached Karsten Schubert, but was turned down. In 1990, in liaison with Hirst, his friend Carl Freedman, along with Billee Sellman, curated two influential "warehouse" shows, Modern Medicine and Gambler, in a Bermondsey former factory they designated "Building One". Saatchi arrived at the second show in a green Rolls-Royce car and, according to Freedman, stood open-mouthed with astonishment in front of (and then bought) Hirst's first major "animal" installation, A Thousand Years, consisting of a large glass case containing maggots and flies feeding off a rotting cow's head. Hirst first gained general public notoriety that same year when one of his works was featured as a send-up in a British tabloid newspaper. In 1991 his first solo exhibition, In and Out of Love, was held at the Woodstock Street Gallery in London; he also had a solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery in Paris. The Serpentine Gallery presented the first survey of the new generation of artists with the exhibition Broken English, in part curated by Hirst. At this time Hirst met the up and coming art dealer Jay Jopling who has continued to represent him.

"Saatchi years" 1991–2003

Saatchi had offered to fund whatever artwork Hirst wanted to make, and the result was showcased in 1992 in the first Young British Artists exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in North London. Hirst's work was titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and was a shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine. It cost Saatchi £50,000. The shark had been caught by a commissioned fisherman in Florida. The exhibition also included A Thousand Years. As a result of the show, Hirst was nominated for that year's Turner Prize, but it was awarded to Grenville Davey. In 1993, Hirst's first major international presentation was in the Venice Biennale with the work, Mother and Child Divided, a cow and a calf cut into sections and exhibited in a series of separate vitrines. In 1994, Hirst curated the show, Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away, at the Serpentine Gallery in London, where he exhibited Away from the Flock (a sheep in a tank). In May, a disgruntled artist poured black ink into it, and was subsequently prosecuted, at Hirst's wish. The sculpture was restored at a cost of £1000. In 1995, Hirst won the Turner Prize. New York public health officials banned Two Fucking and Two Watching featuring a rotting cow and bull, because of fears of "vomiting among the visitors". There were solo shows in Seoul, London and Salzburg. In 1996, No Sense of Absolute Corruption, his first solo show in the Gagosian Gallery in New York was staged. In London the short film, Hanging Around, was shown—written and directed by Hirst and starring Eddie Izzard. In 1997 the Sensation exhibition exhibition opened at the Royal Academy in London. A Thousand Years and other works by Hirst were included, but the main controversy occurred over other artists' works. It was nevertheless seen as the formal acceptance of the YBAs into the establishment. in 1998, his critically-acclaimed autobiography/art book, I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, was published. He directed the video for the song Country House (song) for the band Blur (band). With Alex James (musician) of the group and actor Keith Allen, he formed the band Fat Les, achieving a number 2 hit with a raucous football-themed song Vindaloo (single), followed up by And did those feet in ancient time. Hirst also painted a simple colour pattern for the Beagle 2 probe. This pattern was to be used to calibrate the probe's cameras after it had landed on Mars (planet). In 1999, he turned down the British Council's invitation to be Britain's representative at the Venice Biennale because "it didn't feel right".The Guardian October 6, 2001 Retrieved March 19, 2006 He sued British Airways claiming a breach of copyright over an advert design with coloured spots for its low budget airline, Go. In 2000, Hirst's sculpture Hymn (which Saatchi had bought for a reported £1m) was given pole position at the show Ant Noises (an anagram of "sensation") in the Saatchi Gallery. Hirst was then sued himself for breach of copyright over this sculpture, which was a 20ft six ton enlargement of his son Connor's 14" Young Scientist Anatomy Set designed by Norman Emms, 10,000 of which are sold a year by Hull-based toy manufacturer Humbrol for £14.99 each. Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to two charities, Children Nationwide and the Toy Trust in an out-of-court settlement. The charitable donation was less than Emms had hoped for. "Hirst Pays up in Toy Row" on BBC site Retrieved March 19, 2006 Hirst sold three more copies of his sculpture for similar amounts to the first."Charles Saatchi Could Have Bought Four Davids for the Price of Tracey Emin's Bed" The Daily Telegraph, January 7, 2006 Retrieved March 20, 2006 In September 2000, in New York, Larry Gagosian held the Hirst show, Damien Hirst: Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings. 100,000 people visited the show in 12 weeks and all the work was sold. On September 10, 2002, on the eve of the first anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, Hirst said in an interview with BBC News Online: :The thing about 9/11 is that it's kind of like an artwork in its own right ... Of course, it's visually stunning and you've got to hand it to them on some level because they've achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible - especially to a country as big as America. So on one level they kind of need congratulating, which a lot of people shy away from, which is a very dangerous thing."Transcript of Hirst's 9/11 comments Retrieved March 26, 2006 The following week, following public outrage at his remarks, he issued a statement through his company, Science Ltd: :I apologise unreservedly for any upset I have caused, particularly to the families of the victims of the events on that terrible day.""Hirst apologies for 11 Sept Comments" BBC website Retrieved March 26, 2006 In April 2003, the Saatchi Gallery opened at new premises in County Hall, London, with a show that included a Hirst retrospective. This brought a developing strain in his relationship with Saatchi to a head (one source of contention had been who was most responsible for boosting their mutual profile). Hirst disassociated himself from the retrospective to the extent of not including it in his CV. He was angry that a Mini car that he had decorated for charity with his trademark spots was being exhibited as a serious artwork. The show also scuppered a prospective Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern. He said Saatchi was "childish" and "I'm not Charles Saatchi's barrel-organ monkey ... He only recognises art with his wallet ... he believes he can affect art values with buying power, and he still believes he can do it.""Hirst Buys His Art back from Saatchi", The Guardian, November 27, 2003 Retrieved March 20, 2006 In September 2003 he had an exhibition Romance in the Age of Uncertainty at Jay Jopling's White Cube gallery in London, which made him a reported £11m, bringing his wealth to over £35m. It was reported that a sculpture, Charity, had been sold for £1.5m to a Korean, Kim Chang-Il, who intended to exhibit it in his department store's gallery in Seoul.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=DEHCYGDYKNYUZQFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2003/09/09/nhirst09.xml "Holy Cow! Hirst Turns to Religion" The Daily Telegraph, September 9, 2003 Retrieved March 20, 2006 The (22ft, 6.7m) 6 ton sculpture was based on the 1960s Spastic Society's model, which is of a girl in leg irons holding a collecting box. In Hirst's version the collecting box is shown broken open and is empty. Charity was exhibited in the centre of Hoxton Square, in front of the White Cube. Inside the gallery downstairs were 12 vitrines representing Jesus's disciples, each case containing mostly gruesome, often blood-stained, items relevant to the particular disciple. At the end was an empty vitrine, representing Christ. Upstairs were four small glass cases, each containing a cow's head stuck with scissors and knives. It has been described as "extraordinarily spiritual experience" in the tradition of Catholic imagery.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml;jsessionid=DEHCYGDYKNYUZQFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/arts/2003/09/10/badami10.xml "Damien Bares His Soul" The Daily Telegraph September 10, 2003 Retrieved March 20, 2006 At this time Hirst bought back 12 works from Saatchi (a third of Saatchi's holdings of Hirst's early works), via Jay Jopling, for a total fee reported to exceed £8m. Hirst had sold these pieces to Saatchi in the early 1990s for a considerably smaller sum, his first installations costing less than £10,000.

Post-Saatchi, 2004–

destroyed many works from the Saatchi collection, including 17 of Hirst's, although the sculpture Charity survived, as it was outside in the builder's yard. In July 2004 Hirst commented about Saatchi, "I respect Charles. There's not really a feud. If I see him, we speak, but we were never really drinking buddies." In late 2004, Hirst designed a cover for the Band Aid 20 charity single featuring the "Grim Reaper" with an African child perched on his knee. This was not to the liking of the record company executives and was replaced by reindeer in the snow standing next to a child. In December 2004, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was sold by Saatchi to American collector Steve Cohen, for $12 million (£6.5 million), in a deal negotiated by Hirst's New York agent, Gagosian Larry Gagosian website. This is the most expensive work by a living artist ever sold, with the exception of some early work by Jasper Johns. Cohen, a Greenwich hedge fund manager, then donated the work to MoMA, New York. Sir Nicholas Serota had wanted to acquire it for the Tate Gallery, and Hugo Swire, Shadow Minister for the Arts, tabled a question to ask if the government would ensure it stayed in the country.Hugo Swire web site Retrieved February 18, 2006 Current export regulations do not apply to living artists. In March 2005, Hirst exhibited 30 paintings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. These had taken 3 1/2 years to complete. They were closely based on photos, mostly by assistants (who were rotated between paintings) but with a final finish by Hirst.Science Photo Library press release, March 15, 2005 Retrieved March 20, 2006 In February 2006, Hirst opened a major show in Mexico, at the Hilario Galguera Gallery, called The Death of God, Towards a Better Understanding of Life without God aboard The Ship Of Fools. The exhibition attracted considerable media coverage as Hirst's first show in Latin America.
Work philosophy

Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants (Carl Freedman helped with the first vitrines), and now the volume of work produced necessitates a "factory" setup, akin to Andy Warhol's or a Renaissance studio. This has led to questions about authenticity, as was highlighted in 1997, when a spin painting that Hirst said was a "forgery" appeared at sale, although he had previously said that he often had nothing to do with the creation of these pieces. Hirst said that he only painted five spot paintings himself because, "I couldn't be fucking arsed doing it"; he described his efforts as "shite"—"They're shit compared to ... the best person who ever painted spots for me was Rachel. She's brilliant. Absolutely fucking brilliant. The best spot painting you can have by me is one painted by Rachel." He also describes another painting assistant who was leaving and asked for one of the paintings. Hirst told her to, "'make one of your own.' And she said, 'No, I want one of yours.' But the only difference, between one painted by her and one of mine, is the money.'" By February 1999, two assistants had painted 300 spot paintings."Avoiding the sharks" Guardian Unlimited, February 14, 1999 Retrieved March 20, 2006 Hirst sees the real creative act as being the conception, not the execution, and that, as the progenitor of the idea, he is therefore the artist: :"Art goes on in your head," he says. "If you said something interesting, that might be a title for a work of art and I'd write it down. Art comes from everywhere. It's your response to your surroundings. There are on-going ideas I've been working out for years, like how to make a rainbow in a gallery. I've always got a massive list of titles, of ideas for shows, and of works without titles." Hirst is also known to volunteer repair work on his projects after a client has made a purchase. For example, this service was offered in the case of the suspended shark purchased by Steven A. Cohen http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/arts/design/01voge.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26exQ3D1159761600Q26enQ3D05d2e565de11db31Q26eiQ3D5087Q250A&OP=fd16653Q2FQ2A!WnQ2AbkFQ25@kkTSQ2ASQ3BQ3BQ7DQ2A.Q3BQ2AQ3B.Q2AQ5B@TQ25Q2AbWQ25YQ26Q51Q2AQ3B.Q5EkQ26WBmTQ23E http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article01.asp?id=355 http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/DN-hirst_1002gl.ART.State.Edition1.3e4aa3b.html.
Critical response


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 and helping to (re)create the image of "Cool Britannia". In the mid-1990s, the then-Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley recognised him as "a pioneer of the British art movement", and even sheep farmers were pleased he had raised increased interest in British lamb. Andres Serrano is also known for shocking work and understands that contemporary fame does not necessarily equate to lasting fame, but backs Hirst: "Damien is very clever ... First you get the attention ... Whether or not it will stand the test of time, I don't know, but I think it will." Serota has given ambiguous endorsement: "Damien is something of a showman ... It is very difficult to be an artist when there is huge public and media attention. Because Damien Hirst has been built up as a very important figure, there are plenty of sceptics ready to put the knife in." For Hirst, Channel 4 Retrieved March 19, 2006 Tracey Emin was far more forthcoming: "There is no comparison between him and me; he developed a whole new way of making art and he's clearly in a league of his own. It would be like making comparisons with Warhol." The Independent on Sunday March 12, 2005 Retrieved March 19, 2006 Despite Hirst's insults to him, Saatchi remains a staunch supporter, labelling Hirst a genius and stating:


; http://www.stuckism.com/stuckistmanifesto.html#manifest Stuckist anti-Britart manifesto, August 4, 1999 Retrieved March 20, 2006 they wrote (referring to a Channel 4 programme on Hirst): In 2003, under the title A Dead Shark Isn't Art, the (now defunct) Stuckism International gallery exhibited a shark which had first been put on public display two years before Hirst's by Eddie Saunders in his Shoreditch shop, JD Electrical Supplies. The Stuckists asked if Saunders was "an undiscovered artist of genius, who got there first" The Times, April 10, 2003 quoted on stuckism.com Retrieved April 5, 2006 and "Did Hirst ever see this shark on display or was he ever told about it before he decided to display his own shark? Was this actually the original of the Hirst shark?""A Dead Shark Isn't Art" on the Stuckism International web site Retrieved March 20, 2006
Restaurant ventures

Hirst had a short-lived partnership with chef Marco Pierre White in the restaurant Quo Vadis. Hirst's best known restaurant involvement was Pharmacy (restaurant), located in Notting Hill, London, which closed in September 2003. Although one of the owners, Hirst had only leased his art work to the restaurant, so he was able to retrieve and sell it at a Sotheby's auction, earning over £11 million. Some of the work had been adapted, e.g. by signing it prior to the auction.Laplaca on artnet.com. Hirst opened and currently helps to run a seafood restaurant, 11 The Quay, in the seaside town of Ilfracombe in the United Kingdom.

His works include:
  • In and Out of Love (1991), an installation of potted plants, caterpillars and monochrome canvases painted with sugar solution and glue. There were also (in a separate room) tables with ashtrays containing used cigarette butts. Eventually, the caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies, and the insects become fixed to the surfaces of the canvases. In its now fixed form, the work is held by the Yale Center for British Art and is on regular exhibit there.
  • The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde. This piece was one of the works in his Turner Prize nomination show.
  • Pharmacy(1992), a life-size recreation of a chemist's shop.
  • A Thousand Years (1991), composed of a vitrine with a glass division. In one half is the severed head of a cow on the floor; in the other is an insect electrocutor. Maggots introduced into the vitrine feed off the cow and then develop into flies that are killed by the electrocutor.
  • Amonium Biborate (1993)
  • Away from the Flock (1994), composed of a dead sheep in a glass tank of formaldehyde.
  • Arachidic Acid (1994) an early example of Hirst's spot paintings.
  • Hymn (1996), a gigantic head and upper body, based on an anatomical model of the human body.
  • http://www.af-moma.no/images/D_hirst_mother_and_child_divided(0).jpg Mother and Child Divided , composed of a cow and a calf sliced in half in a glass tank of formaldehyde.
  • Two Fucking and Two Watching , includes a rotting cow and bull. This work was banned from exhibition in New York by public health officials.
  • God , composed of a cabinet containing pharmaceutical products.
  • The Stations of the Cross (2004), a series of twelve photographs depicting the final moments of Jesus Christ, made in collaboration with the photographer David Bailey.
  • The Virgin Mother , a massive sculpture depicting a pregnant female human, with layers removed from one side to expose the foetus, muscle and tissue layers, and skull underneath. This work is currently on display (as of June 24, 2006) in the Royal Academy, London http://flickr.com/photos/juli/8088967/.
  • The Wrath of God (2005), a new version of a shark in formaldehyde.
  • "The Inescapable Truth", (2005). Glass, steel, dove, human skull and formaldehyde solution.
  • "The Sacred Heart of Jesus", (2005). Perspex, bull's heart, silver, assorted needles, scalpels, and formaldehyde solution.
  • "Faithless", (2005). Butterflies and household gloss on canvas
  • "The Hat Makes de Man", (2005). Painted bronze that simulates wood and hats.
  • "The Death of God", (2006). Household gloss on canvas, human skull, knife, coin and sea shells. This painting, which is a part of a group of others which were made in Mexico, are believed to be "the beginning of Hirst's Mexican period".
    See also

  • British Art
  • Freeze (exhibition)
  • Sensation exhibition. The London show of Charles Saatchi collection in 1997 which included several Hirst works and travelled to Berlin and New York.
  • Toddington Manor – a country house purchased by Hirst in 2005
  • Appropriation (art)

    Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/

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