Who Are They?

Who is Damien Hirst?

Meet Damien Hirst, an English artist, entrepreneur and art collector

Damien Hirst, ‘Mother and Child (Divided)’ exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993)
Damien Hirst
Mother and Child (Divided) exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993)
Tate
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Damien Hirst has said ‘art’s about life, and it can’t really be anything else’. What do you think? Do you agree? Let’s have a look into the world of Damien Hirst….

Have you seen this sculpture before? It is by Damien Hirst and it is called Mother and Child (Divided) and was first made in 1993.

For this artwork Damien Hirst cut dead cows in half and preserved them in the blue liquid, formaldehyde. Visitors to the gallery can walk around the animals and see something quite familiar in a new way. It’s kind of disgusting but very curious!

Damien says that he sees beauty in science and likes it when things are repulsive and attractive at the same time.

What can you think of that is both those things? Maybe think about your body and what’s inside it. It’s both beautiful and unique and weird all at the same time!

Damien Hirst, ‘Away from the Flock’ 1994
Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock 1994
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2019. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Hirst was part of a group of artists known as the YBAs (Young British Artists). Most of the YBAs had studied together at Goldsmiths College of art in London. In 1988 they put on a show called Freeze and invited lots of people to come and see it.

Damien likes putting animals in tanks. He even put this sheep in a tank!

Hirst thinks a lot about death and a lot of his work is about death. He wonders what it would be like to be dead and he wonders if there is a God, and if there is, what kind of God it is.

Damien Hirst, ‘Pharmacy’ 1992
Damien Hirst
Pharmacy 1992
Tate
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

He also thinks about all the things that keep us alive. Like medicine that stops us dying from terrible diseases. He wonders if maybe people believe in science and medicine more than they believe in art. Pharmacy 1992 is an installation of lots and lots of medicines on shelves.

It looks a bit like a laboratory, or perhaps a hospital. It is very clean and white. He has arranged the medicines in the order of where they help the body. On the top shelf are drugs for the head, then in the middle are drugs for the stomach and the ones at the bottom are for the feet.

On the counter are four glass bottles filled with coloured liquids. They represent the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. In ancient times, people used these elements to heal the sick. Hirst is reminding us how people used to treat the body before modern medicine.

Damien Hirst, ‘Liberty’ 2002
Damien Hirst
Liberty 2002
Tate
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Damien Hirst also makes Spin paintings. To make them he stands on a ladder and pours paint onto large circular canvases as they are rotated at high speed by a spin machine in his studio. The circles spin around a central point, like a disc on a record player. Each work is kind of like an optical illusion experiment.

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