Contemporary Art

Damien Hirst: 7 Things You Need to Know

By Martin Dean

F rank Dunphy is Damien Hirst's long time manager and supporter, and was instrumental in Hirst's rise to becoming a major figure in the art world. Ahead of Sotheby's Yellow Ball sale on 20 September, which features the sizeable art collection of Frank and Lorna Dunphy, here are 7 things you need to know about Damien Hirst.

1. Never Mind the Bananas: Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965 and raised in Leeds. His mother claimed he was out of control as a youth. Regardless, she would not stand for rebellious behaviour, and once heated up one of his Sex Pistols records on the stove, melting it into a bowl shape and using it as a fruit bowl.

2. Bones to Pick: While a student at Goldsmith’s, University of London, Hirst took a placement at a mortuary. It was this that influenced much of his later work, which was often concerned with death, or used human and animal remains.

3. Turning Heads: Hirst’s first major animal installation, A Thousand Years, consisted of a rotting cow’s head being eaten by flies and maggots inside a glass case. Collector and subsequent Hirst supporter Charles Saatchi was reportedly awestruck when he saw it, and quickly bought it.

4. The Tiger Shark in Your Tank: One of Hirst’s most notorious works, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, consisted of a tiger shark suspended in a glass tank filled with formaldehyde. Hirst acquired the sizeable fish from a professional Australian shark hunter, Vic Hislop. When told that Hirst had sold the shark as an artwork for £10 million, Hislop said “He’s a very smart man.”

5. A Bridger Too Far: Another Of Hirst’s animal installations, Away From the Flock, consisted of a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde. It was exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994, where it was vandalised by an art student who poured black ink into the tank and renamed it Black Sheep. Bridger was sued and given two years probation, but when Hirst reproduced the work in a book – including a pull card that recreated the effect of the vandalism – Bridger sued him for copyright infringement.

6. The Man, the Legend: Hirst’s enormous Venice show, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, consisted of a vast collection of objects created by the artist in the style of treasures from the ancient world, supposedly lost at sea. Hirst submerged the works — which ranged from marble statues of gods and mythical creatures to enormous golden faces — in the ocean and filmed the recovery process to create the surrounding narrative.

7. Major Sale: Hirst’s 2008 sale at Sotheby’s, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, marked a significant shake-up of the art market. It was the first time an artist as in-demand as Hirst had sold work directly to the public at auction, bypassing a gallery. The sale sold in its entirety, raising a record $198 million, ten times higher then any previous single-artist sale at Sotheby’s.

CLICK HERE for more details on the sale.

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