Damien Hirst

05.10.2015 |

Episode #8 of the course “Ground-breaking contemporary artists”

Damien Hirst is a British contemporary artist whose works are known for being visceral and controversial. He is the leader of the Young British Artists, dominated the British art scene in the 1990s, and is currently involved in multiple collectives. A record-breaker and trend-setter, Hirst once said that he couldn’t wait until he was popular enough to make “really bad art” that people liked. One of his exhibits was later closed due to fears that viewers would vomit. Hirst currently lives and works in the UK, though he is featured around Europe.

Hirst was born in 1965. His mother claims that she “lost control” of him at a young age. Art was the only class he succeeded in, but it took multiple attempts for him to be accepted to any art colleges. Hirst began exhibiting while a student and curated a number of art shows in which he participated. In 1988, he met and became friends with art collector Charles Saatchi. The two continued working together until 2003.


8.1_A Thousand YearsA Thousand Years




Hirst is known as a master of abstract art in many forms. Although he has been a successful painter, he is better known for pieces that are a hybrid of sculpture, installation, and performance art. Death and decay feature prominently in Hirst’s work thanks to an influence from working in a mortuary as a young man. He often displays dead animals in formaldehyde, sometimes dissected. His provocative work, A Thousand Years, included live flies and maggots feeding on a decaying cow’s head.


8.2_The Golden CalfThe Golden Calf


8.3_The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone LivingThe Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living


8.5_For the Love of GodFor the Love of God


One of the richest artists in the world, Hirst often makes statements about the commercialization of art with his works. The Golden Calf explores the relationship of art, death, life, religion, and money with a dead calf preserved in formaldehyde whose hooves and horns have been capped in 18-karat gold. In 2007, Hirst created a human skull out of platinum, which was then fitted with over 8,500 diamonds. It is the most expensive art object by a living artist, valued at over $100 million.



“The answer to how to live is to stop thinking about it. And just to live. But you’re doing that anyway. However you intellectualise it, you still just live.”

“I’m a hypocrite and a slut and I’ll change my mind tomorrow.”

“So smoking is the perfect way to commit suicide without actually dying. I smoke because it’s bad, it’s really simple.”

“Great art – or good art – is when you look at it, experience it and it stays in your mind. I don’t think conceptual art and traditional art are all that different.”


All artworks

Damien Hirst on WikiArt


Recommended book

“I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now” by Damien Hirst


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