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Damien Hirst’s Life and Works Essay (Biography)

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2022


Born on June 7, 1965, Damien Steven Hirst is a British entrepreneur known for his creative nature and love for collecting art. Most people who have an encounter with Damien describe him as a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination (Bradford 39). The global art scene holds Damien in high esteem for his exploits as a member of a group called the Young British Artists.

He became a member of the group in 1992, during an exhibition they had organized at the Charles Saatchi arcade. This group helped Damien to acquire global prominence, as people came to know about his talent and love for art through it. His exploits with this group earned Damien the Turner prize, which he won in 1995 (Bradford 47). Damien is also known for the massive wealth he has acquired over the years for his love for art.

A report released by Sunday Times in 2010, ranked Damien as the richest artist from the United Kingdom. An alumnus of Goldsmith’s College in London, Damien attracted public attention in the late 1980s, when he conceptualized and conducted an exhibition showing his artwork and that of his fellow college students.

Damien named the exhibition Freeze and helped him to lay a strong foundation for a prolonged and successful career as an artist (Cahill 20). For most of the initial years of his career, Damien worked with a renowned collector called Charles Saatchi. However, a state of conflict between the two artists led to their work relationship falling apart a few years after the turn of the century.


Throughout his life, Damien has demonstrated his passion for art. Even before he enrolled at Goldsmith’s College to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in fine art, Damien had shown his passion with the numerous paintings he made during his childhood days in Leeds (Cahill 28). Ironically, Damien was an academically weak student and excelled only in drawing work.

Damien was a rebellious child who gave his mother a hard time following the death of his father. Because of his poor academic grades, Damien had to do several foundation courses that would allow him to get college admission. His first experience of an exhibition happened in 1983 when he went to the Hayward Gallery organized by Julian Spalding (Barnbrook 160).

Damien described the experience of the exhibition as mind-blowing and one that inspired him a lot. He used the inspiration from the experience to start his exhibition during his second year of study at Goldsmith’s College. Damien has been described as an artist who gets inspiration from nature and everyday experiences (Bradford 60).

One of the things that have inspired the development of his artistic work was his experiences in mortuaries as a child and as a student. His experiences there influenced the theme developed through his work (Hirst and Burn 200).

Damien’s works and themes developed

Damien has developed numerous works throughout his career. Most of his work develops along the theme of death. This theme was inspired by his time as a worker in a mortuary. His artistic ideas focus on challenging the perception and ideas that people have regarding the concept of existence (Barnbrook 165).

A close analysis of Damien’s works shows that he wants people to use his artistic impressions to assess their knowledge and beliefs about the relationship between existence and fatality, as well as aspiration and apprehension. He has developed a series of artistic works in which he uses dead animals to illustrate a certain idea.

One of the famous works that he used an animal was the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (Cahill 34). In this work, Damien used a large shark immersed in a clear display case filled with a colorless, poisonous gas made by the oxidation of methanol.

According to Damien, he used the shark to represent a feeling that people had about death, while the formaldehyde represented the conditions supporting the feelings. The clear display case applied to illustrate the fragile nature of human existence. This artistic work was part of his infamous Natural History series (Hirst and Burn 209). Experts argue that Damien’s work presents a challenge to the modern belief systems used by people all over the world.

Also, the experts had applauded Damien for advancing the theme of death in his work because many artists before him had been shy to explore it. Many of them considered death as an unacceptable theme for their artistic work because of the numerous perceptions that people had regarding the concept.

According to Damien, his passion for exploring the concept of death and applying it in his work started during his early years when his family was living in Leeds (Barnbrook 179).

Damien was a regular at the Leeds Medical School, where he went to their mortuary to make drawings of dead people (Desmond 211). His biggest motivation to explore the theme of death was the difficulties of coming to terms with the death of his father. Damien explains that the importance of choosing death as a theme for his work is that he believed talking openly about it could help people gain the strength of body and mind.

Throughout his artistic career, Damien has explored the theme of death more deeply, as he tries to relate death with the belief systems used by people all over the world (James 9). For example, in the Medicine Cabinets, a series of works that he created while in college, Damien argues that the global belief systems are rapidly changing. People showed more believe in science compared to believing in the natural course of things (Desmond 220).

Damien continues with his exploration of the theme of death, even in the contemporary global art scene. In 2007, he revealed one of his modern works called For the Love of God. Damien said that the skull he used in this work illustrated the death as unforgiving and one that cannot be placated or moved by entreaty.

The following year was even better for Damien, as he managed to put up a sold-out exhibition show called Beautiful inside my Head Forever (Hirst and Burn 218). In the exhibition, Damien sold all his galleries and managed to surpass his record for the number of sales made in a single exhibition.

Damien has also depicted the theme of beauty and morality in his works very well. He applies various scientific tools, as well as images and symbolic representations traditionally associated with a person or subject to illustrate this concept (Welchman 188). According to Damien, life is all about four important things, namely art, religion, science, and love.

He believes that the four elements are important tools that show the beauty of life and the moral values that every human being ought to observe. Through his various artistic works that apply the theme of death, people get to learn about the value of living a moral life because the repercussions after death can be very serious and hard to deal with.

His paintings and sculptures are done in an attractive manner depicting the need to do the right things (James 19). People tend to have interest and attraction towards attractive and good things. Damien has managed to be successful in a dynamic and competitive global art scene because he understands the value of beauty and morality through his works.

His works also call for people to examine their perceptions and beliefs about the relationship between love and hate (Desmond 231). The two elements illustrate the concepts of beauty and morality. People cannot experience the beauty of life when they do not love each other. On the other hand, morality cannot prevail when people hate each other because it will be hard to achieve the common good.


Damien Hirst is one of the most influential people in the contemporary global art scene. He has a strong and professional work philosophy, although he has dealt with acquisitions of plagiarism at some point in his career. His strong desire to succeed and passion for art continues to motivate millions of aspiring artists across the world.

Damien has demonstrated that with passion and dedication, it is possible to give an artistic impression of any aspect of the society regardless of the perceptions that people conceive about them. Damien has also attracted numerous controversies, especially for his comments about the infamous 9/11 attacks in the United States. Damien has cut himself a legacy that is bound to live for years to come.

Works Cited

Bradford, Richard. Damien Hirst: Superstition. London: Gagosian Gallery, 2007. Print.

Barnbrook, Jonathan. Damien Hirst: The Saatchi Gallery. London: Harry N. Abrahams, 2001. Print.

Cahill, James. Damien Hirst: A Retrospective. California: CV Publications, 2012. Print.

Desmond, Kathleen. Ideas about Art. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.

Hirst, Damien, and Gordon, Burn. On the Way to Work. New York: Universe Publishing, 2012. Print.

James, Nicholas. Damien Hirst: The Biopsy Paintings & Other Works. California: CV Publications, 2007. Print.

Welchman, John. Sculpture and the Vitrine. New York: Ashgate Publishing, 2013. Print.

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