A strange character has appeared in the art scene with painted artworks or in the form of sculptures depicting afterlife, controversies, money or even animals 😱. Discover Damien Hirst, an artist who mirrors each of these words. The Skull World team has researched day and night about this artist, who is stirring up the media with his morbid art , in order to provide you with every crisp info about this fascinating personality.
1) Damien Hirst, Die Kunst des Kadavers
Damien Hirst is a British artist who was born in the city of Bristol in 1965. Today he is considered the greatest, if not the only, « superstar » in the world of modern art. His artistic career is as atypical as his art: disturbing, sometimes morbid, to bring out the fears buried deep in the viewer’s heart. 😨
It was his teacher at the art school who gave him access to high school despite his disastrous grades. Despite his fondness for the subject, his ideas got in the way and Damien Hirst only got an E in his subject, Art History.
He was rejected by two prestigious art schools, including the Saint Martin School of Art , before finally being accepted at Goldsmith College of Art. He worked in a morgue alongside his studies and this strongly influenced his artistic thinking 👍. His mother later described him as « a morbid child interested in macabre and horrifying images of illness and injury. » »
These themes would later fuel some of the artist’s iconic works.
2) Path to artistic success
The emergence of such a triangle between art, life and death took place in his youth, when he was a frequent visitor to the anatomy department at Leeds Medical School and during his work in the morgue. He presents this vision through the exhibition of
The emergence of such a triangle between art, life and death took place in his youth when he was a frequent visitor to the anatomy department at Leeds Medical School and during his work in the morgue. He represents this vision through the display of animal carcasses that have been severed and dipped in formalin. 💀
This exhibition was a resounding success and launched the artist’s career. Even after that, Damien Hirst continued to surprise us throughout his career with visual art of corpses, skulls and other death’s heads, reinvented in ever more elaborate ways.
Find products inspired by Damien Hirst at « »Skull World » » .
3) Art of the Skull
» For the love of God » is an artistic creation that is among Damien Hirst’s best-known works. It is a replica of a real human skull that the artist bought in the town of Islington. « »This skull » » was that of a man in his thirties who lived in the 18th century.
No changes were made to the teeth, they are the real and original teeth of the skull. Starting from this skull, Damien Hirst creates an allegory of our society perverted by money by designing a skull and crossbones set with more than 8600 diamonds . 💎
The artwork cost Damien Hirst over £14m (over €16m!) to produce. That’s the price of a skull plated in platinum and set with diamonds by jewelers Bentley and Skinner . However, the contemporary artist saw his work still selling for over £100m a year after it was created, so his financial health was not in jeopardy. 💵
Ironically, this exorbitantly priced work denounces the constant pursuit of wealth by contrasting it with the brutal depiction of death. Skull World has already talked about the symbolism of the skull , this one is just another!
What’s the use of striving for wealth in life more than necessary if you end up rich and dead, like a diamond skull .
4) Painted images of the skull
The Skull Spin Paintings are a series of works by the British artist. He again uses the imagery of death by a skull, this time drawn. ✏️
The creation of the artwork is done in two layers – one for the background and one for the superimposed skull – and is based on the technique of spin painting . This consists of a rotating plate on which a screen is placed that rotates at high speed.
The whole thing is doused with drops of paint, which spread outwards due to the kinetic energy. The result is an extremely colorful image that almost looks like a color explosion. 💥
Damien Hirst uses the contrast between the skull, the dark and sad image it conveys, and the bright color of the spin painting. In this way he seeks to undemonize death, for his message is that it is part of the natural cycle of life.
Ultimately, death is black only because the living see it as such, it’s only the living who suffer death (e.g. their loved ones). Death itself doesn’t need to be portrayed sadly, it’s a construct of society . 🤨
At least that’s what this series of works conveys in the exhibitions of extremely colorful skulls created by Damien Hirst .
5) animal carcasses for his art
At first glance, this work seems as original as it is morbid. It is about two cow carcasses 🐮 a mother and her child, which were cut up by the artist in their entire length.
Each of the two pieces of carcass, coming from slaughterhouses, is dipped in formalin to preserve the body (a kind of varnish) and placed in two different containers. In this way one can « circulate inside the cow ». A unique experience that confronts us with death in all its facets.
In this work the cows are removed from their natural environment , nature. Both through her amazing presence in a gallery and simply through death. 😵
The artist explains: « In a way, one understands the living better by studying the dead. My cows cut in formaldehyde have more personality than all the cows that roam the fields ».
The personality that the artist is talking about is the message that the cow has to convey.
She tells us about human emotions : motherly love, mortal fear, loneliness… and Damien Hirst presents them in a brutal, emotionless way: two severed carcasses. 😰
6) Eternal Death
To understand Damien Hirst’s work, one must delve into his conceptualization of death . In his works, the artist regularly uses objects that are reminiscent of death, skulls and bones, drawn death’s heads, animal carcasses, etc.
For Hirst, death does not end with the stage of raw death, the disappearance of life. This lasts in this earthly world through the decomposition of the bodies 😷. This is why he uses so many objects symbolizing death , not as a concept but as a reality.
For him, the human skull is a perfect representation of this connection between life and death, since it exists at the time of man’s life and continues to exist even after his death.
For the artist there is a « lifetime of the death of the body ». A time that Hirst makes eternal, for example by immersing the corpses in formalin, a chemical substance that allows the bodies to be preserved and gives the work a blue color. 🔵
In this way he indefinitely preserves what was doomed. In this way he makes death eternal ; in contrast to eternal life after death, it represents eternal death in this earthly world. This is intended to make us aware of the transience of our body.
7) desacralization of man
Damien Hirst desecrates the human being and makes us aware that, fundamentally, we are not all that different from animals. Not in our way of life or our thinking, but in the impermanence of our existence. 👀
When Hirst exhibits an animal carcass to ask about death, man does not ask about the death of the cows, but about his own death .
After all, what distinguishes us from the animals once we have died? Like the cow carcasses on display, after death we are just a pile of flesh and bones, which over time becomes a skeleton. 🦴
In this way he shows that in the face of death man is no longer unique among the species. So that in the end we are just mortal bodies that will disappear like any other living thing.
8) Art defies death
The triangle between life, death and art is the cornerstone of Damien Hirst’s work. His entire work can be thought through this prism. The juxtaposition of life and death in art is a concept that already existed in very ancient civilizations, so the artist did not invent anything new.
However, the interesting thing about this triangle is that art is essentially what persists after death and is created during life 💪. So it is this bridge between these two terms, which actually contradict each other.
When a man dies , he leaves a work. In a broader sense, everything that we build in our lives and that will endure after death is our art. Be it our home, a book we’ve written, the education we’ve passed on, or the donations we’ve made to an organization…
All of this is the work of a man. Art in a narrower sense is the best discipline to represent these reflections on the ephemeral existence of our bodies and what will live on after we die. 💫
Damien Hirst has made this his favorite subject and has become one of the leading figures in this death-defying discipline – art.
9) Controversial artist
Damien Hirst has often been accused of making art that aims only to shock viewers , and in exhibiting his contemporary work seeks media controversy rather than a deeper meaning of his work.
His art is indeed confusing to many people. Animal cadavers, human skeletons, apothecary cabinets presented as works of art. However, the artist eventually carried out his vision by exhibiting in the world’s major art centers. 🧐
The biggest controversy surrounding his art is no longer what his works represent, but how they are created.
Hirst has a large number of assistants working, not all of his works are created by himself, although he initiates the design and puts his signature under it. This applies in particular to the dots painting series, which comprises more than 1400 pieces, of which Hirst only designed 25 himself.
Speaking of design: this is also one of the controversies surrounding the artist. Numerous plagiarism lawsuits have been filed against him throughout his career . 😭
Especially the skull in The love of god is said to have been inspired by LeKay’s skull from 1993. Despite this, he was never convicted as he settled most of his disputes with monetary compensation.
10) Intimate relationship between Hirst and money
The rapper and philosopher Alpha Wann once said: « Artists like to talk about money, bankers like to talk about art ».
Damien Hirst is known for being one of the highest selling artists of our time. His relationship with money poses a problem for some. He’s been particularly criticized for short-circuiting the galleries that exhibited him at a Sotheby’s auction where he sold an entire collection to collectors for over $198 million 💰. A very considerable sum for the art market!
This way the money comes right back to him, but this practice is disrespectful to the contemporary art galleries he works with.
When asked about his relationship with money, the man, despite being recognized as an artist in auditoriums and group shows, replies:
« I think money is a big part of our lives . I’ve always thought that it’s just as important as love or death, something to reconcile with, something to understand. It’s a key and it’s something you have to respect » 🤔.
In the same interview, he also added: « Sometimes I fly to my farm by helicopter, but I don’t have a luxurious lifestyle . » Perhaps Damien Hirst is himself caught up in what he denounces in his work For the love of God.
He must not forget that in the end all his wealth will be gone when he is just a skeleton and a skull and that in the end only his art will survive. ✊
Hirst is a fascinating personality. We have come to the end of this article despite ignoring many points in his Art Brut : his sculptures, his paintings, his patrons of his works, his artistic influences (Picasso, Van Gogh, Basquiat, …), his relationship with painters or other artistic practices of his contemporary work.
But you have to let us know in the comments if you want to know more! In the meantime, you can take a look at our collection of « skull pictures » » that will give your home a more Damien Hirst-esque style. 👀