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Damien HIrst,

The living artist in which the contemporary art of the last fifty years converges: that's Damien Hirst. Stuffed animals and a cow head that feeds on larvae. Very provocative, Damien Hirst forces us to look at human frailty as well as beauty.

Damien Hirst is the "most" living artist in the world. More paid, more famous, smarter ... and more emblematic of the contemporary art system. Even those who think they do not know it often repent when they mention two or three of his most famous works: the great tiger shark, the sliced ​​cow, or the full-size skull covered in diamonds.

In many respects Hirst, English born in 1965, is the point of arrival and encounter of the art of the last fifty years, because he has been able to condense in his work and in his person apparently opposing artistic currents, dressing at the same time the role of grandchild of Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon and collecting the fruits of seemingly opposing artistic currents such as Expressionism, minimalism and the conceptual.

Anyone who judges excessive such a crucial location, for an artist of 50 years, will have to deal with twenty years of works (1989-2009) that, whether we like it or not, have marked the history of art and with which we between 24 and 44 years of age, the great retrospective at the Tate Modern in London is earned. It is a production organized in cycles very different from each other in technique and materials, each of which would make, alone, the luck of an artist.

 Damien Hirst,

Table of Contents

  • Brief biography of Damien Hirst
  • The beginnings
  • The success of Damien Hirst
  • Why Damien Hirst is important
  • Damien Hirst and the death 


Brief biography of Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, born in Bristol in 1965, is one of the most celebrated contemporary British artists. He is the leading exponent of the Young British Artists (YBA), a group of visual artists established in the 90s for the controversial and engaging content of their performances.

damien Hirst, 

The beginnings

It is 1989. A large rectangular glass case is divided into two communicating environments. On the right a white cube hides larvae of flies. On the left, a cow's head gives its blood as a food to the newly born flies and destined to die soon, attracted in an anti-mosquito lamp placed just above.

It is the work A Thousand Years: a closed life cycle stages birth, life and death. Damien Hirst is driven by the need to give us an image capable of representing the drama of existence and its inevitable end and imposingly imposes the theme of birth, life and death, as necessary protagonists of art.


damien hirst,

The intent of the work, declares the author, is not to scare but to oblige the spectator to be faced with a convincing image of what he normally does not have the courage to look at. Hirst attributes to the artist the task of making us come to terms with inconvenient and unavoidable aspects of reality, such as the brevity of life.

It is no coincidence that, two years later, a casket like this encloses in a claustrophobia prison an office chair and a desk, on which are placed a full ashtray, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter: modern instruments of death from to which man learns to depend, to remain trapped: The Acquired Inability to Escape is the title.

 damien Hirst,

The success of Damien Hirst

1991 is the year of Hirst's global success. The year of the famous shark: The physical impossibility of the idea of ​​death in the mind of the one who lives.

It is the result of the strategy of a very successful publicist, Charles Saatchi, who perceives a global road of luck for many contemporary art and in Hirst he finds one of the most gifted artists out of the Academy. That's how at 25 he puts 50 thousand pounds in his hand, giving him carte blanche: he makes the most sensational work he can imagine.

This is how Hirst obtains from a Australian fisherman a tiger shark of over three meters and places it in one of his showcases filled with formaldehyde.


Damien Hirst,

The shark is suspended in the transparent liquid. The result is an image of death and terror but, at the same time, also of majesty of nature: because the monster remains eternal, alive and capable of terrorizing, forever.

 The work soon became a symbol of a generation and of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a successful label that consecrates London as the center of an artistic system that supports the contemporary art market from Beijing to New York.

But, at the same time, it is the most disruptive image of the inevitable presence of death in the life of each of us. It does not seem possible to explain better, in words or with other images, the absolute contradiction inherent in man, who spends all his energies on life and has to deal with death every day. Perhaps he can only pretend nothing, try not to think about it, but she will impose herself.

 Damien Hirst,

Why Damien Hirst is important

What fascinates the artist is not death as such but the splendor of life, nature, biology and the point at which this objective beauty must come to terms with its end. The artist is entranced by the beauty of nature and the way in which he presents it is only apparently horrifying.

When he makes a series of anatomical sculptures, he shows us the body half covered by the skin and leaves the muscles, bones and internal organs uncovered for half. A human anatomical model, borrowed from any science school laboratory, is reproduced in bronze in a six-meter high fusion.

Between 1999 and 2000 Hymn was born: a hymn to the extraordinary nature of the body. The corporeity thus becomes a fundamental element, to be made concrete and idealized together, thanks to the dimensions and to shiny and bright body colors.

 A physicality that Hirst needs to bring out also from living beings that normally do not conceive as corporeal, because celestial, like an angel (The anatomy of an angel, 2008) or because mythological, like the unicorn (Myth, 2010).

The result is only apparently irreverent, because the research is that of a more solid, more concrete beauty than that which gives back the aesthetic and aestheticizing exterior appearance.

 Damien Hirst,


Damien Hirst and the death

Damien Hirst  worked a lot about the inevitability of death.

Hirst's artistic research focuses on the theme of death, which in his works becomes a raw spectacle that frightens, indigns, causes a sensation and invites us to reflect on the transience of the body.

One of his best-known works, For The Love of God (2007) is a human skull covered with diamonds (8,601 very pure diamonds and a huge pink diamond with a drop placed on the forehead, for a total of 1,106.18 carats).

Damien Hirst,

Enclosing Hirst’s works in a case is not just a way to concentrate tension, it is a tribute to the geometries used by Francis Bacon for his paintings, for example some screaming Popes.

But it is also the means to achieve a formal cleansing that Hirst has learned from minimalism: a way of thinking about art in the twentieth century also decisive for every figurative artist who, thanks to these abstract elements made of lines and geometric spaces, can convey modern way contents that have nothing abstract, without falling into splatter or sloppy and opening the way to the good houses of collectors all over the world.

 This is how the delimited space is stressed from the inside with elements overloaded with life and death, able to go beyond it, without destroying it.

Damien Hirst,