Damien Hirst (b. 1965 / Bristol, England), is a successful and controversial artist. He emerged as a leading figure in the Young British Artists movement in the late 1980s and 1990s. His works, which include dead animal displays and spin-art paintings, have sold for exceptionally high prices. Hirst is one of the wealthiest artists living today.
Raised Catholic, Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds. His early religion education would later factor into his artwork. He showed an interest in the grisly and gruesome aspects of life early on. His mother would later describe him as a morbid child. As a teenager, Hirst liked to look at illustrated pathology books, fascinated by the images of disease and injury. He also showed an interest in drawing, a passion his mother supported. His father, a car mechanic, left the family when he was only 12 years old.
In 1991, Hirst had his first solo exhibition at the Woodstock Street Gallery in London. He also participated in the Young British Artists show at the Saatchi Gallery the following year. There 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. The shark had been bought from an Australian fisherman.
Hirst continued to set the art world on fire with his work at the 1993 Venice Bienniale, a renowned international art exhibition. There he showed "Mother and Child Divided," an installation piece that featured a bisected cow and her calf displayed in four vitrines, or glass cases, filled with formaldehyde. With his controversial and sometimes gruesome works, Hirst soon became one of the best known artists in Britain. He won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995. "It's amazing what you can do with an E in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw," Hirst said in his acceptance speech.
Even though his career was thriving, not every exhibit went as planned. He wanted to bring rotting cattle for an exhibit in New York City in 1995, but he was stopped by the city's health authorities. Hirst, however, enjoyed a warm welcome the following year with a show at New York's Gagosian Gallery.
Hirst continued to push the boundaries of art. In 2007, he unveiled "For the Love of God," a glittering, diamond-encrusted skull made of platinum. Many critics were less than impressed with this "celebration against death," as Hirst described. Others marveled at the anticipated selling price of $100 million. Perhaps a sign of declining interest in his work, no one initially bought the piece. It was later bought by a group that included Hirst and London's White Cube gallery.
In 2009, Hirst exhibited a group of paintings, No Love Lost, Blue Paintings, which provoked the ire of many critics who labeled the pieces "dull" and "amateurish." Many of these works drew inspiration from one of his favorite artists, Frances Bacon, which led to some unfavorable comparisons.
These days, Hirst shows no signs of slowing down. He participates in exhibits around the world. Again making art more accessible, Hirst launched his own skateboard line in 2011.