As one of the best-known living artists in the world, Damien Hirst is renowned for his ability to push the boundaries of contemporary art. His controversial art has both been banned and set multiple records at auction. Much of Hirst’s art centers on the theme of death, and some of his most shocking art work involves full size animals, sometimes intact and sometimes dissected, suspended in formaldehyde. Although his large-scale art installations have garnered the most recognition, Hirst is a master of many mediums.
Born in 1965, Damien Hirst rose to popularity in the 1990s as a member of the Young British Artists (YBAs). In addition to art that pushed the boundaries of the conventional art world, Hirst also rose to fame in by unconventional means. Denied representation by the gallery of his choice, Hirst along with some of his friends assembled several warehouses shows in the early 1990s. At the second show that year, Hirst debuted the first of his animal pieces, A Thousand Years, featuring a rotting cow’s head complete with maggots and flies. Iraqi Businessman Charles Saatchi was so impressed that he offered to fund any art Hirst wished to create. He went on to create a suspended Tiger Shark in The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living; a large-scale human anatomy study in Hymm; a rotting cow and bull banned by New York Health officials for fear it would induce vomiting in the crowd in Two Fucking and Two Watching; a diamond covered human skull in For the Love of God; and, more recently, 14 statues of a fetus growing inside the womb outside a hospital in Qatar titled The Miraculous Journey. Hirst continued to buck the traditional artist gallery system throughout his career, including selling an entire show, Beautiful Inside my Head directly at Sotheby’s auction.
Although art critics remain divided on much on Hirst’s most controversial work, that has not stopped the artist from achieving widespread acclaim. The appeal of his art is not restricted to wealthy collectors paying high premiums for his work at auction. His artwork was featured at the 2012 London Olympic Games closing ceremony, is featured on two Mickey Mouse themed Swatch watches, and hangs in the home of Kiley Jenner. Damien Hirst has transformed the art market and the definition of art itself. Instead of succeeding despite the controversy surrounding him, Hirst has succeeded because of it.
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