Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. In 1984 he moved to London, where he studied for a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College from 1986 to 1989. Damien Hirst famously curated the 1988 ‘Freeze’ exhibition which showcased his own work alongside that of Mat Collishaw, Gary Hume and Sarah Lucas – Amongst others. Graduating from Goldsmiths in 1989, Damien was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and has continued to attract publicity with works exploring themes of death, technology, religion, science and beauty. Since the late 1980’s, Hirst has used a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between Art, Life and Death. Explaining: “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else” Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), preserving a shark in a tank of formaldehyde solution and For the Love of God (2007), a platinum cast skull embellished with 8,601 perfect diamonds, are amongst his most iconic works. Believed to be the world’s most expensive artwork, For the Love of God sold for £50 million and questions the inherent worth of diamonds, death and life. Death is decorated and disguised, the dazzling radiance of the piece proclaiming victory over mortality.
His Pharmaceutical series explores how society no longer relies on religion, but upon pills for solutions. Referencing pop art, consumerism and Hirst’s belief in the healing powers of art, the sterile orderliness of rows of pills in medical cabinets explores false hopes and beliefs we hold against death. Vitrines and aquariums, used in works such as Mother and Child Divided and The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living seem to isolate and preserve the fragility of life, yet again confront viewers with the inevitability of death.
His controversial piece In and Out of Love (1991) exhibited living butterflies and their life cycles as art. Extended from this concept, Damien’s kaleidoscopic butterfly Psalms are carefully arranged to mimic cathedral windows and call to mind the elegance and beauty of these richly symbolic creatures, showing butterflies to be as graceful and attractive in death as they are in life.