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Born in Bristol, England, 1965
Damien Hirst has defined and drawn attention to a generation of young British artists. His controversial work has redefined international expectations of British art.
Hirst, who grew up in Leeds, is also often credited with helping to refocus the London art world from West End Galleries to the industrial spaces of the city. This shift followed the success of 'Freeze', a 1988 Goldsmiths' College show he organized, which took place in a docklands warehouse.
The unavoidable part of Hirst's work is its unblinking confrontation with death, mortality and the brevity of life, whether it is in the form of a 14-foot long tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) or the beauty of a disused shop full of butterfly pupae, hatching from white canvases, feeding on sugar syrup, mating, laying eggs and dying: In and Out of Love (1991). But there is another strategy where, through his titles and black humor, he collapses the formal clarity of the works and its apparently melancholy message, and makes the viewer reconsider the ambivalent creativity that is at work. 'I want to set up situations that make people try to find meaning. I don't think my interpretations are important on a large scale', he says. Though he has pointed out that in With Dead Head (1991) a photograph showing the youthful Hirst in a mortuary, smiling beside the head of a corpse, his expression betrays fear or nervousness rather than delight.
Beyond the glass tank pieces of dead and often cut-open animals for which he is best known, Hirst's work includes photography, a series of cabinet sculptures and painting. The paintings allow room for both random and methodical practice: the spin paintings are produced on a rotating, uncontrollable table, while the spot paintings are created with geometrical precision, in angst-free colors, and titled after pharmaceutical ingredients. But the relationship between sculptural and painterly practice is close for Hirst: 'They're an idea about the ultimate variety of paintings, or what you'd imagine a sculpture would look like under a microscope'.
His work has, almost more than any other artist of the 90s, become familiar via the media, particularly following his Turner Prize win in 1995, and it is a situation that, at least in some ways, he relishes and uses. Hirst has addressed the exchange in his own film-making, which confronts the relationship between art and advertising - his work frequently references billboards and TV commercials, even the slightly suicidal, mini-universe of cigarette smoking. He has directed a pop promo for Blur and Hanging Around, a film for the Hayward Gallery's 1997 'Spellbound' exhibition.
SELECTED PERMANENT COLLECTIONS
Arts Council of Great Britain.
Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy.
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Saatchi Gallery, London.
Tate Gallery, London.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
'Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings.', Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2000.
'No Sense of Absolute Corruption', Gagosian Gallery, New York, 1996.
'Visual Candy', Regan Projects, Los Angeles, USA, 1993.
'Internal Affairs', ICA, London, 1991.
'In & Out of Love', Woodstock Street, London, 1991.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
'Sensation', Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997.
'Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away', Serpentine Gallery, London, 1994.
'Venice Biennal', Aperto Section, Venice, Italy, 1993.
'Young British Artists', Saatchi Collection, London, 1992.
'Freeze', Surrey Docks, London, 1988.
Hirst, Damien, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now (monograph and pop-up book), Booth-Clibborn Editions, London, 1997.
Kent, Sarah, Shark Infested Waters, Zwemmer, London, 1994.
Self, Will, 'A Steady Iron-Hard Jet', Modern Painters, Summer 1994.
Morgan, Stuart, 'Life and Death', frieze, Summer 1991 (pilot issue); and in No Sense of Absolute .
Corruption, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 1996; essay on Hirst in his What the Butler Saw, Durian, London, 1996.
Renton, Andrew and Liam Gillick, editors, Technique Anglais: Current Trends in British Art, Thames & Hudson, London and New York, 1991.