|Birth Day:||June 7, 1965|
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He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths University of London. He sold his complete 2008 show, "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," at Sotheby's for $198 million, a record.
He went to an exhibition of work by Francis Davison, staged by Julian Spalding at the Hayward Gallery in 1983. Davison created abstract collages from torn and cut coloured paper which, Hirst said, "blew me away", and which he modelled his own work on for the next two years.
1987 – Damien Hirst and Holden Rowan, Old Court Gallery, Windsor Arts Centre, Windsor, UK – Curator Derek Culley
In July 1988, in his second year at Goldsmiths College, Hirst was the main organiser of an independent student exhibition, Freeze, in a disused London Port Authority administrative block in London's Docklands. He gained sponsorship for this event from the London Docklands Development Corporation. The show was visited by Charles Saatchi, Norman Rosenthal and Nicholas Serota, thanks to the influence of his Goldsmiths lecturer Michael Craig-Martin. Hirst's own contribution to the show consisted of a cluster of cardboard boxes painted with household paint. 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.
1988 – Damien Hirst: Constructions and Sculpture, Old Court Gallery, Windsor, UK -Curator Derek Culley
1989 – New Contemporaries, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK
Hirst, along with his friend Carl Freedman and Billee Sellman, curated two enterprising "warehouse" shows in 1990, Modern Medicine and Gambler, in a Bermondsey former Peek Freans biscuit factory they designated "Building One". Saatchi arrived at the second show in a green Rolls Royce 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 on a rotting cow's head. They also staged Michael Landy's Market. At this time, Hirst said, "I can’t wait to get into a position to make really bad art and get away with it. At the moment if I did certain things people would look at it, consider it and then say 'f off'. But after a while you can get away with things."
1990 – Building One, Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, Paris, FR
His first solo exhibition, organised by Tamara Chodzko – Dial, In and Out of Love, was held in an unused shop on Woodstock Street in central London in 1991; already in 1989 he had been part of a group exhibition 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. In 1991 Hirst met the up-and-coming art dealer, Jay Jopling, who then represented him.
In 1991, Charles 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, and sold for £50,000. The shark had been caught by a commissioned fisherman in Australia and had cost £6,000. The exhibition also included In 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.
This artwork features a large tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde. The tank in which the shark is floating creates the illusion of the animal being cut into three pieces due to the container looking like three separate sections. The work was created in 1991, and since then, the formaldehyde preserving the shark has slowly eaten away at the animal's body, which shows signs of decay. Hirst says that the formaldehyde surrounding the shark is the process of death and decay.
Hirst was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1992, for his first Young British Artists exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in North London, which included his The Physical Impossibility of Death..., with the award going to Grenville Davey that year.
Between 1992 and 2012, Hirst lived with his American girlfriend, Maia Norman, with whom he has three sons: Connor Ojala, (born 1995, Kensington and Chelsea, London), Cassius Atticus (born 2000, North Devon) and Cyrus Joe (born 2005, Westminster, London). Since the birth of Connor, he has spent most of his time at his remote farmhouse near Combe Martin in Devon. Hirst and Norman were never married, although Hirst had referred to Norman as his "common-law wife".
Hirst's first major international presentation was in the Venice Biennale in 1993 with the work, Mother and Child Divided, a cow and a calf cut into sections and exhibited in a series of separate vitrines. He curated the show Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away in 1994 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, where he exhibited Away from the Flock (a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde). On 9 May, Mark Bridger, a 35-year-old artist from Oxford, walked into the gallery and poured black ink into the tank, and retitled the work Black Sheep. He was subsequently prosecuted, at Hirst's wish, and was given two years' probation. The sculpture was restored at a cost of £1,000. When a photograph of Away from the Flock was reproduced in the 1997 book by Hirst I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one-to-one, always, forever, now, the vandalism was referenced by allowing the tank to be obscured by pulling a card, reproducing the effect of ink being poured into the tank; this resulted in Hirst being sued by Bridger for violating his copyright on Black Sheep.
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. He directed the video for the song "Country House" for the band Blur. No Sense of Absolute Corruption, his first solo show in the Gagosian Gallery in New York was staged the following year. In London the short film, Hanging Around, was shown—written and directed by Hirst and starring Eddie Izzard. In 1997 the Sensation 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.
Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995. He was asked to represent the UK in the Venice Biennale in 1999 or to become a Royal Academian but refused.
In 1997, his autobiography and art book, I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, was published. With Alex James of the band Blur and actor Keith Allen, he formed the band Fat Les, achieving a number 2 hit with a raucous football-themed song Vindaloo, followed up by Jerusalem with the London Gay Men's Chorus. 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. He turned down the British Council's invitation to be the UK's representative at the 1999 Venice Biennale because "it didn't feel right". He threatened to sue British Airways claiming a breach of copyright over an advert design with coloured spots for its low budget airline, Go.
Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants—for instance, Carl Freedman helped with the first vitrines—and the current volume of work produced necessitates a "factory" setup. 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.
The Stuckist art group was founded in 1999 with a specific anti-Britart agenda by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish; Hirst is one of their main targets. They wrote (referring to a Channel 4 programme on Hirst):
In 1999, chef Marco Pierre White said Hirst's Butterflies on Mars had plagiarised his own work, Rising Sun, which he then put on display in the restaurant Quo Vadis in place of Hirst's work.
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 (see Appropriation below). Hirst sold three more copies of his sculpture for similar amounts to the first. 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.
In 2000, Hirst was sued for breach of copyright over his sculpture, Hymn, which was a 20-foot (6.1 m), 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, as well as a "good will payment" to Emms. The charitable donation was less than Emms had hoped for. Hirst also agreed to restrictions on further reproductions of his sculpture.
On 10 September 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:
In 2002, Hirst gave up smoking and drinking after his wife Maia had complained and "had to move out because I was so horrible". He had 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 2002, 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.
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."
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. The 22-foot (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.
In 2003, under the title A Dead Shark Isn't Art, the 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. Thomson asked, "If Hirst’s shark is recognised as great art, then how come Eddie’s, which was on exhibition for two years beforehand, isn’t? Do we perhaps have here an undiscovered artist of genius, who got there first, or is it that a dead shark isn’t art at all?" The Stuckists suggested that Hirst may have got the idea for his work from Saunders' shop display.
On 24 May 2004, a fire in the Momart storage warehouse 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. That July, Hirst said of Saatchi, "I respect Charles. There's not really a feud. If I see him, we speak, but we were never really drinking buddies."
Hirst designed a cover image for the Band Aid 20 charity single featuring the "Grim Reaper" in late 2004, and image showing an African child perched on his knee. This design 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 $8 million, in a deal negotiated by Hirst's New York agent, Gagosian. Cohen, a Greenwich hedge fund manager, then donated the work to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 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.
Hirst had a short-lived partnership with chef Marco Pierre White in the restaurant "Quo Vadis". His best-known restaurant involvement was Pharmacy, located in Notting Hill, London, which closed in 2004. 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.
Hirst exhibited 30 paintings at the Gagosian Gallery in New York in March 2005. These had taken 3½ years to complete. They were closely based on photos, mostly by assistants (who were rotated between paintings) but with a final finish by Hirst. Also in 2005, Hirst founded the art book publisher Other Criteria.
In February 2006, he 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, an exhibition that attracted considerable media coverage as Hirst's first show in Latin America. In June that year, he exhibited alongside the work of Francis Bacon (Triptychs) at the Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London, an exhibition that included the vitrine, A Thousand Years (1990), and four triptychs: paintings, medicine cabinets and a new formaldehyde work entitled The Tranquility of Solitude (For George Dyer), influenced by Bacon.
In November 2006, Hirst was curator of In the darkest hour there may be light, shown at the Serpentine Gallery, London, the first public exhibition of (a small part of) his own collection. Now known as the 'murderme collection', this significant accumulation of works spans several generations of international artists, from well-known figures such as Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin, Richard Prince, Banksy and Andy Warhol, to British painters such as John Bellany, John Hoyland, and Gary Hume, and artists in earlier stages of their careers Rachel Howard, David Choe, Ross Minoru Laing, Nicholas Lumb, Tom Ormond, and Dan Baldwin.
In 2006, a graphic artist and former research associate at the Royal College of Art, Robert Dixon, author of 'Mathographics', alleged that Hirst's print Valium had "unmistakable similarities" to one of his own designs. Hirst's manager contested this by explaining the origin of Hirst's piece was from a book The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry (1991)—not realising this was one place where Dixon's design had been published.
He worked for two years on London building sites, then studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College (1986–89), although again he was refused a place the first time he applied. In 2007, Hirst was quoted as saying of An Oak Tree by Goldsmiths' senior tutor, Michael Craig-Martin: "That piece is, I think, the greatest piece of conceptual sculpture. I still can't get it out of my head." While a student, Hirst had a placement at a mortuary, an experience that influenced his later themes and materials.
Hirst gained the world record for the most expensive work of art by a living artist—his Lullaby Spring in June 2007, when a 3-metre-wide steel cabinet with 6,136 pills sold for 19.2 million dollars to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar.
In June 2007, Beyond Belief, an exhibition of Hirst's new work, opened at the White Cube gallery in London. The centre-piece, a Memento Mori titled For the Love of God, was a human skull recreated in platinum and adorned with 8,601 diamonds weighing a total of 1,106.18 carats. Approximately £15,000,000 worth of diamonds were used. It was modelled on an 18th-century skull, but the only surviving human part of the original is the teeth. The asking price for For the Love of God was £50,000,000 ($100 million or 75 million euros). It didn't sell outright, and on 30 August 2008 was sold to a consortium that included Hirst himself and his gallery White Cube.
Hirst is currently restoring the Grade I listed Toddington Manor, near Cheltenham, where he intends to eventually house the complete collection. In 2007, Hirst donated the 1991 sculptures "The Acquired Inability to Escape" and "Life Without You" and the 2002 work "Who is Afraid of the Dark?" (fly painting), and an exhibition copy from 2007 of "Mother and Child Divided" to Tate from his own personal collection of works.
In 2007, artist John LeKay, a friend of Damien Hirst between 1992 and 1994, was reported by Dalya Alberge of The Times to have provided ideas and inspirations for a variety of his later works, including having given him a "marked-up duplicate copy" of a Carolina Biological Supply Company catalogue that LeKay had been using as inspiration and supply for his work, noting that "You have no idea how much he got from this catalogue. The Cow Divided is on page 647—it is a model of a cow divided down the centre, like his piece", a reference to Hirst's work Mother and Child, Divided, a cow and calf cut in half and placed in formaldehyde. LeKay also suggests that Hirst copied the idea of For the Love of God from his work on crystal skulls in 1993, saying, "I would like Damien to acknowledge that 'John really did inspire the skull and influenced my work a lot.'" Copyright lawyer Paul Tackaberry reviewed images of LeKay's and Hirst's work and saw no basis for any appropriation rising to the legal level of a copyright infringement.
In November 2008, the skull was exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam next to an exhibition of paintings from the museum collection selected by Hirst. Wim Pijbes, the museum director, said of the exhibition, "It boosts our image. Of course, we do the Old Masters but we are not a 'yesterday institution'. It's for now. And Damien Hirst shows this in a very strong way."
In December 2008, Hirst contacted the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) demanding action be taken over works containing images of his skull sculpture For the Love of God made by a 16-year-old graffiti artist, Cartrain, and sold on the internet gallery 100artworks.com. On the advice of his gallery, Cartrain handed over the artworks to DACS and forfeited the £200 he had made; he said, "I met Christian Zimmermann [from DACS] who told me Hirst personally ordered action on the matter." In June 2009, copyright lawyer Paul Tackaberry compared the two images and said, "This is fairly non-contentious legally. Ask yourself, what portion of the original–and not just the quantity but also the quality–appears in the new work? If a 'substantial portion' of the 'original' appears in the new work, then that's all you need for copyright infringement... Quantitatively about 80% of the skull is in the second image."
In a 2008 Channel 4 documentary called The Mona Lisa Curse, art critic Robert Hughes claimed that Hirst's work was "tacky" and "absurd". Hughes said it was "a little miracle" that the value of £5 million was put on Hirst's Virgin Mother (a 35-foot bronze statue), which was made by someone "with so little facility". Hughes called Hirst's shark in formaldehyde "the world's most over-rated marine organism" and attacked the artist for "functioning like a commercial brand", making the case that Hirst and his work proved that financial value was now the only meaning that remained for art.
Art by Hirst sold at his auction in 2008, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, raised $198 million (US). It is said to be the largest amount raised by any living artist to date. Hirst is reputed to be the richest living artist to date. In 2009, the annually collated chart of the wealthiest individuals in Britain and Ireland, Sunday Times Rich List, placed Hirst at joint number 238 with a net worth of £235m. Hirst's wealth was valued at £215m in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List, making him Britain's wealthiest artist.
Hirst is a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation, Survival International. In September 2008, Hirst donated the work, Beautiful Love Survival, at the Sotheby's London sale, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, to raise money for this organisation. Later, he also contributed his writing to the book, We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009, in support of Survival. The book explores the existence of, and threats to, indigenous cultures around the world.
In October 2009, Hirst revealed that he had been painting with his own hand in a style influenced by Francis Bacon for several years. His show of these paintings, No Love Lost, was at the Wallace Collection in London.
Hirst's 2009 show, No Love Lost, of paintings by his own hand, at the Wallace Collection in London, received "one of the most unanimously negative responses to any exhibition in living memory". Tom Lubbock of The Independent called Hirst's work derivative, weak and boring: "Hirst, as a painter, is at about the level of a not-very-promising, first-year art student." Rachel Campbell-Johnston of The Times said it was "shockingly bad". A 2012 exhibition of paintings by Hirst at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey, entitled "Two Weeks One Summer", provoked in The Guardian the comment that Hirst "can kid himself he is an Old Master and have the art world go along with the fantasy".
In 2010, Hirst was among the unsuccessful bidders to take over the Magazine Building, a 19th-century structure in Kensington Gardens, which reopened in 2013 as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery after its conversion by Zaha Hadid. In March 2012, he outlined his plans to open a gallery in Vauxhall, London specifically designed to exhibit his personal collection, which includes five pieces by Francis Bacon. The Newport Street Gallery opened in October 2015. It is located in a former theater carpentry and scenery production workshops redesigned by Peter St John and Adam Caruso, and runs the length of Newport Street in Vauxhall.
In 2010, in 3:AM Magazine and in The Jackdaw, Charles Thomson argued that there are 15 cases where Hirst plagiarised the work of others, including his enlarged version of an anatomical torso model, Hymn (1999) which Thomson presents alongside a comparable John LeKay's anatomical torso model from Carolina Science, Yin and Yang (1990), and Hirst's In Nomine Patris [In the Name of the Father] (2005), which presents a split-open crucified sheep in a tank of formaldehyde, after John LeKay's comparably posed split-open crucified sheep, entitled This is My Body, This is My Blood (1987) mounted on a wooden board. Other examples cited were the similarity of Hirst's cabinets with shelves and bottles, e.g., My Way (1991), which expanded to become his room-size installation, Pharmacy (1992), which Thomson relates to a Joseph Cornell display of cabinet with shelves and bottles, Pharmacy (1943); and Hirst's appropriation of concept from Lori Precious, who had made stained-glass window effects from butterfly wings from 1994, a number of years before Hirst. The art gallery lemon sky: projects + editions exhibited a selection of these works by Precious at the Year 06 Contemporary Art Fair in London in October 2006, where these pieces were viewed by a large audience and would have been seen at that time, to have credibly been plagiarized. Thomson also suggested that Hirst's spin paintings and installation of a ball on a jet of air were not original, since similar pieces had been made in the 1960s. A spokesperson for Hirst said the article was "poor journalism" and that Hirst would be making a "comprehensive" rebuttal of the claims.
In 2012, Hirst was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his album cover for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires.
Hirst's 2012 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, while setting records for attendance, also received many complaints. "Members of the public wrote to the state-funded gallery accusing it of wasting taxpayers' money by showcasing art that was 'repetitive', 'meaningless' and 'almost universally awful'."
Hirst's representation of the British Union Flag formed the arena centrepiece for the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London. In January 2013, Hirst became the third British artist to design the Brit Awards statue using his signature NEO-Pop art style inspired by his 2000 LSD "spot painting." In October 2014, Hirst exhibited big scale capsules, pills and medicines at the Paul Stolper Gallery titled: 'Schizophrenogenesis'
In April 2016, a study published in Analytical Methods claimed Hirst's preserved carcasses leaked formaldehyde gas above legal limits at Tate Modern; however, this study was shown to be flawed.
Hirst is a co-owner of the seafood restaurant, 11 The Quay, in the English seaside town of Ilfracombe. In 2016, Damien Hirst designed the interiors of his new restaurant Pharmacy 2 at the Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, London.
In 2016 he donated artworks for the secret auction of Art on a Postcard, a charity supporting the fight against Hepatitis C.
In 2017 he organised with Pinault Foundation a solo exhibition, in Venice contemporarily to the Biennale in two places in the city: Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana. The title is Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, purporting to present ancient treasures from a sunken Greek ship, with pieces that range from Ancient Egyptian-alike items to Disney character reproductions, encrusted with shells and corals.
In May 2017 Hirst was accused of copying and appropriating Yoruba art from Ilé-Ifẹ̀ in his work Golden Heads (Female), which is on display in his exhibition "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" at the Venice Biennale. The work, said critics, was not given appropriate context for viewers.
Currently, Damien Hirst is 56 years, 1 months and 29 days old. Damien Hirst will celebrate 57th birthday on a Tuesday 7th of June 2022.
Find out about Damien Hirst birthday activities in timeline view here.