At 48 years old, Damien Hirst, who rose to fame as a leader of the 1990’s Young British Artists (YBA) movement, is one of the most commercially successful artists living today. He is also one of the more controversial. His detractors liken him to a radio shock jock, an opportunist, a serial businessman. His supporters consider him to be a man of conviction, a trailblazer and a master. Hirst’s knack for sensationalizing common objects and leveraging his celebrity status often place him alongside Warhol, Haring and other popular artists.
Like all great creators, Damien Hirst captured lightning in a bottle, and he now owns an impressive catalog of works that are easily identifiable to collectors and enthusiasts as signature “Hirst.” The artist’s controversy is most closely linked to the manner in which he first captured the public imagination − with large scale installments of dead and decaying animals – as if a science museum exhibit took a wrong turn and ended up in a contemporary art space.
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) is one such powerful installment, showcasing a 14-foot tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde within a steel and glass display case. As the title suggests, the physical object represented is merely a symbol in this context, to be experienced by the viewer with deep psychological and physiological response.
The artist’s gamble paid off. To be in close proximity to a feared predator (even a dead one) may be considered an easy play to elicit a visceral response, but the suggestive title and contemporary art label prove effective in taking the viewer down the road of multiple contemplations. Am I to imagine that this could by my fate in the waters? Is it inappropriate for this animal, one of God’s creatures, to be powerlessly displayed for the sake of art? Is death beyond what can be intelligently imagined? Yes, yes, yes…and more.
Hirst’s other dead animal installations – including those featuring decaying cows and sheep – all serve up similar questions about life and death, and appropriateness. Likewise, Damien Hirst’s fascination with death has taken a number of interesting turns along the way. His Dead Ends Died Out, Examined (1993) displays hundreds of spent cigarette butts on shelves. Each cigarette butt is a unique entity – in shape and size, and in remnants of tobacco, filter, paper and ash. As if each it sustained a life of its own, while serving to extinguish a bit of life from each individual that consumed a smoke.
For many, the Hirst’s definitive death themed work is a diamond-encrusted platinum skull, entitled For the Love of God (2007). The scull is a platinum cast of a 35-year old 18th European century man (and includes the original teeth), encrusted with 8,601 flawless diamonds. The sculpture was sold to an investment group that allegedly purchased it for Damien Hirst’s $100 Million asking price.
At Vertu Fine Art in Boca Raton, FL, our collection of Damien Hirst works for sale is predominantly print editions of the artist’s highly acclaimed Spot Paintings, Spin Paintings and Butterflies. All of which have won Hirst praise for his gorgeous use of color and scientific approach to composition.
The Souls on Jacob’s Ladder Take Their Flight (Small Green) – 2007, Hand inked photogravure on 400 gsm Velin D’arches paper, 47 X 42.7 in, Edition of 72 is a current favorite at VFA. The seductive work is tirelessly appreciated by gallery visitors who comment on the lovely colors and tones. The stark black background apparently vaults the subject into space, floating peacefully.
Similar effect is gained by Hirst by using stark white background in his Spot paintings. Esculetin – 2012, 2-inch woodcut spot, Edition of 55, 18.5 X 22 in. is one such Damien Hirst print currently for sale at our Boca Raton gallery. Owners of Spot painting prints regularly share their bewilderment at how much enjoyment comes from the pleasantly arranged colored spots, never knowing which arrangement of spots will decide to present themselves to you harmoniously upon your next gaze.