Damien Hirst is an English artist and entrepreneur who is most famous for his artworks of displays of dead animals and medicine cabinet sculptures. With his controversial and sometimes shocking works, he has emerged as one of the best known artists in Britain. Born into a middle class family in England, he was a troublesome teenager and was jailed twice for shoplifting. Despite his sometimes wild behavior, he made his way to college and later studied Art at the University of London. He celebrated his first success as an artist when he presented dead animals in formaldehyde as an art. His later works include paintings made by spin machines, enlarged ashtrays filled with cigarette butts, monumental anatomical models of the human torso, and medicine cabinets filled with pharmaceuticals. He became an important figure in the development of Britart, an innovative and revolutionary conceptual art. His body of work comprises of paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations that blur the boundaries between art and science. Arguably one of the world's most famous living artists, in his works, he often emphasizes on themes such as, life and death, mortality, and betrayal. His works philosophically examine the meaning of life, challenging the concepts of originality and authenticity. Apart from being an artists, he is an entrepreneur and philanthropist
Childhood & Early Life
Damien Hirst was born on June 7, 1965, in Bristol, England, to Mary Brennan, an unmarried shorthand typist. His biological father’s identity is unknown while his stepfather, William Hirst, a motor mechanic, left the family when Damien was 12. His mother later on worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau.
He was a moody child and was raised as a catholic. From a young age, he expressed an interest in the horrific and gruesome aspects of life.
As a teenager, he developed a liking towards illustrated pathology books and was fascinated by the images of disease and injury. He also had a keen interest in drawing, a passion his mother supported.
He grew up to be a troubled teen and was subsequently jailed twice for the charges of shoplifting.
Despite the lack of discipline in his early life, he was accepted into the Jacob Kramer School of Art in his second attempt after a successful application to the Foundation Diploma course.
From 1986 to 1989, Damien Hirst studied Fine Arts at Goldsmiths College, University of London. As a student, he worked at a mortuary, an experience that influenced his later artistic career.
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In 1988, while studying in college, he served as the main organizer of an independent exhibition titled ‘Freeze’. The show featured his works as well as the works of other artists such as, Fiona Rae and Sarah Lucas.
After graduating, his works were included in New Contemporaries show and in a group show at Kettles Yard Gallery in Cambridge. Subsequently, he joined an emerging movement known as the ‘Young British Artists’ which was known for its unusual works and interesting art concepts.
In 1991, his solo exhibitions were held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery in Paris. While his work was mostly met with negative response, he received support from Charles Saatchi, an advertising titan and art collector.
In 1992, Damien Hirst participated in the Young British Artists exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery where he displayed ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’, a 14-foot-long glass tank with a shark preserved in formaldehyde.
In 1993, Damien Hirst’s first major international presentation was held at the Venice Biennale where he showed his art work titled ‘Mother and Child Divided’. It is an installation piece that featured a bisected cow and her calf displayed in four vitrines, or glass cases, filled with formaldehyde.
In subsequent years, he also exhibited in shows in Seoul, London and Salzburg showcasing his talent. In 1997, his autobiography and art book titled ‘I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now,’ was published.
In addition to his glass tank works, he also made paintings and sculptures. In 2007, he unveiled "For the Love of God," a glittering, diamond-encrusted skull made of platinum.
In 2009, he exhibited a collection of paintings, ‘No Love Lost, Blue Paintings,’ which provoked the anger of many critics who labeled them as dull and unprofessional.
In 2008, his art works were presented at the two-day auction, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, and raised $198 million (US) in sales. It is supposedly the largest amount raised by any living artist to date and Damien Hirst is reputed to be the richest living artist to date.
Awards & Achievements
In 1995, Damien Hirst won the prestigious Turner Prize.
Personal Life & Legacy
From 1992 to 2012, Damien Hirst lived with his Californian girlfriend, Maia Norman, with whom he had three sons: Connor Ojala, Cassius Atticus, and Cyrus Joe. Though the couple never officially married, he referred to Norman as his ‘common-law wife’.
Damien Hirst is a supporter of the ‘Survival International’, an indigenous rights organization. He donated his work, ‘Beautiful Love Survival’, at the Sotheby’s London sale, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, to raise money for the organization