Facades of Reality

about Damien Hirst

Artist, entrepreneur, and art collector, Damien Hirst is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists — or YBAs —, who dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s.

Death is a central theme in his works. He became famous for a series of artworks in which dead animals — including a shark, a sheep and a cow — are preserved in formaldehyde. The best known of these was The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 14-foot — 4.3 m — tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde in a vitrine. His Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable has been one of the most talked-about art show on earth.

Born in Bristol and grew up in Leeds, Damien never met his father. He has always collected things, a process that has been important since the beginning. When he was a kid it was rocks and minerals, which he used to display in boxes, then he got into collecting books about art and pathology, which he used to steal when he was growing up in Leeds.

“I love how different forms of display affect what the eye sees. It’s bound up in my interest in the Victorian obsession with nature, or really the dominance of man over the natural world. Those Victorian natural history displays are so stupidly self-confident, it’s nature seen through the eyes of man, beautifully ordered according to aesthetics. They’re meant to be about the natural world but they’re more like zoos — fake places or facades of reality. For me, the anatomical models are a reminder that the demarcation between science and art is a relatively recent development”.

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