Meet the artist whose works confront the idea of mortality

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JUNE 7, ON THIS DAY

Damien Hirst

United Kingdom’s richest living artist Damien Hirst, was born on this day, June 7 1965. He is an English artist, entrepreneur, and art collector. Death is a central theme in his works. Hirst presented dead animals in formaldehyde as art. The best-known of his art works was The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 14-foot (4.3 m) tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde in a clear display case.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

Hirst grew up in Leeds and moved to London in the early 1980s from where he began his artistic life as a painter and assemblagist. From 1986 to 1989 he attended Goldsmiths College in London, and during this time he curated an influential student show, “Freeze,” which was attended by the British advertising mogul and art collector Charles Saatchi, Norman Rosenthal and Nicholas Serota. The exhibition showcased the work of a group of Hirst’s classmates who later came to be known as the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s. Hirst, along with his friend Carl Freedman and Billee Sellman, curated two more shows in 1990, Modern Medicine and Gambler. Hirst’s contribution to the show was his first major animal installation, A Thousand Years, consisting of a large glass case containing maggots and flies feeding on a rotting cow’s head. His installations complete with live maggots and butterflies were seen as reflections on mortality and the human unwillingness to confront it.

A Thousand Years

In 1989 he had been part of a group exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery in Paris. Later on he had his first solo exhibition, In and Out of Love in 1991 Hirst’s later work included paintings made by spin machines, enlarged ashtrays filled with cigarette butts, monumental anatomical models of the human torso, medicine cabinets filled with pharmaceuticals, other curiosity cabinets filled with found objects, and a diamond-studded platinum-cast human skull entitled For the Love of God, probably the most expensive work of art ever made.

Circle Spin Painting

His art was shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples (2004) and Tate Modern (2012) in London. Hirst was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1992 but lost to Grenville Davey and won the Turner Prize in 1995.

 

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