Damien Hirst was born 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. In 1984 he moved to London, where he worked in construction before studying for a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College from 1986 to 1989. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.
Since the late 1980’s, Hirst has used a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. Explaining: “Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else … there isn’t anything else,” Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience.
Whilst in his second year at Goldsmiths, Hirst conceived and curated ‘Freeze’ – a group exhibition in three phases. The exhibition of Goldsmiths students is commonly acknowledged to have been the launching point not only for Hirst, but for a generation of British artists. For its final phase he painted two series of coloured spots on to the warehouse walls. Hirst describes the spot paintings as a means of “pinning down the joy of colour”, and explains they provided a solution to all problems he’d previously had with colour. It has become one of the artist’s most prolific and recognisable series.
In 1991 Hirst began work on ‘Natural History’, arguably his most famous series. Through preserving creatures in minimalist steel and glass tanks filled with formaldehyde solution, he intended to create a “zoo of dead animals”. The series typifies Hirst’s interest in display mechanisms. The glass boxes he employs both in ‘Natural History’ works and in vitrines, such as ‘The Acquired Inability to Escape’ (1991), act to define the artwork’s space, whilst simultaneously commenting on the “fragility of existence”.
Stating: “I am absolutely not interested in tying things down”, Hirst has continued over the last decade to explore the “big issues” of “death, life, religion, beauty, science.” In 2007, he unveiled the spectacular, ‘For the Love of God’ (2007): a platinum cast of a skull set with 8,601 flawless pavé-set diamonds.
Since 1987, over 80 solo Damien Hirst exhibitions have taken place worldwide and his work has been included in over 250 group shows. Hirst’s first major retrospective 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' was held in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples in 2004. His contribution to British art over the last two and a half decades was recognised in 2012 with a major retrospective of his work staged at Tate Modern. Hirst lives and works in London, Gloucestershire and Devon.