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Famous artists: Damien Hirst

damien hirst sheepWho is he?

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965, and studied at Leeds College of Art and Design before going to Goldsmith’s College in London to study a BA in Fine Art in 1986. He worked part-time as a builder and in a mortuary, and began organising student art shows.

It was at Hirst’s Gambler show in 1990 that art collector Charles Saatchi first bought one of Hirst’s pieces A Thousand Years – a decomposing cow’s head in a glass cabinet – and offered to fund Hirst’s next piece of work. The result was The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living – a dead tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde. Sculptures and installations made from dead animals became Hirst’s trademark throughout the 1990s, and he won the Turner Prize in 1995 for Mother And Child Divided. But he has also produced other types of art, like his series of ‘spot’ paintings, and For The Love Of God – a human skull encrusted with diamonds which allegedly cost £14 million to create.

Why is he famous?

Damien Hirst is not only one of the most famous living artists, but also one of the most controversial. Hirst says that his dead animal sculptures are a comment about death, but they have been criticised as offensive and even as a health risk. Hirst is a conceptual artist – which means that the idea behind a piece of art is more important than the art itself – but some people have questioned whether what he makes is ‘art’ at all, since Hirst sometimes seems more interested in making the headlines than an artistic statement. There has also been debate over how much of his work Hirst actually produces himself. He has admitted that his ‘spot’ paintings are produced by a team of assistants, although defenders of his art have pointed out that this is no different to how other artists like Andy Warhol and Michelangelo worked.

Hirst has a personal fortune of over £200 million and his wealth is also controversial, with claims that the millions paid by collectors like Hirst’s former patron Charles Saatchi have unbalanced the art market, and encourage younger artists to produce ‘sensationalist’ pieces to sell. But if there’s one thing that’s certain about Damien Hirst it’s that – whether they love him or hate him – people always have an opinion about him.

Famous quotes

'I always feel like the art's there and I just see it, so it's not really a lot of work.'

'It'd be nice to make a lot of money but it's quite difficult, because every time I make lots of money I make a bigger piece that costs lots of money.'

'Whenever I look at the question of how to live, the answer's always staring me in the face. I'm already doing it.'

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