Damien Hirst

Mantra by Damien Hirst at GALLERY M

Born 1965 in Bristol, Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds before moving to London.  At that time in 1984, he set off a journey that transformed not simply himself but the fine art world's relationship to contemporary art.  Hirst's initial job in construction gave way to a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths college.   By 1995, his accomplishments included the Turner Prize and ultimately recognition for his role in the "Young British Artists" exhibition by Saatchi Gallery.  

Hirst has been able to define life in the modern world with powerful concepts, unique at that.   In the 1980’s, Hirst's varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing explored the complex relationship between art, life and death.   His works pressed the edge of belief systems in our contemporary lives. [1]

His focus on death started while in Leeds.   Damien's regular routine included the anatomy department at the Leeds Medical School.  Through life drawings he uncovered difficulties for the living with death.  His motivations turned the morbid into vigour - enlightening perspective of the life cycle. [2] 

At Goldsmiths, Hirst further expanded his talent.  His body of work included The ‘Medicine Cabinets’ and spot paintings.   Created in his second year,  the cabinets combined the aesthetics of minimalism with Hirst’s observations on science and how society embraced its teachings as gospel - ‘Pharmacy’ (1992).  His role in curating Goldsmith's students in "Freeze" established a fresh generation of British artists and his exploration with the Spot series.  For Hirst, the joy of each allowed his difficulties with color to be systematically eased.  By 2012, the spot paintings had an International following and awareness enabling a worldwide show at Gagosian Gallery's 11 locations.

"In 1991 Hirst began work on ‘Natural History’, arguably his most famous series. Through preserving creatures in minimalist steel and glass tanks filled with formaldehyde solution, he intended to create a “zoo of dead animals”. In 1992, the shark piece, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991) was unveiled at the Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Young British Artists I’ exhibition. The shark, described by the artist as a “thing to describe a feeling”, remains one of the most iconic symbols of modern British art and popular culture in the 90’s. The series typifies Hirst’s interest in display mechanisms. The glass boxes he employs both in ‘Natural History’ works and in vitrines, such as ‘The Acquired Inability to Escape’ (1991), act to define the artwork’s space, whilst simultaneously commenting on the “fragility of existence”.[3]

Curating exhibitions remains a relevant process for Hirst.  In 1994 he organized the international group exhibition ‘Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away’ at the Serpentine Gallery. 

Other highlights:

  • Over 80 solo exhibitions worldwide
  • 260 group shows
  • 2007 Beyond Belief/For the Love of God - White Cube
  • Solo auction fo 244 works, Sotheby's London
  • 2012 Retrospective at Tate Modern 

Hirst lives and works in London, Gloucestershire and Devon.

Select works of Damien Hirst are available with a GALLERY M specialist. 

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For further details on his life visit his full biography.


[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 20–21

[2] Damien Hirst, ‘We’re Here for a Good Time, not a Long Time’, Interview with Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph, 2011

[3] Damien Hirst, ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 33


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