Damien Hirst is a renowned British artist known for his installations, sculptures, paintings, and drawings. His work explores themes of art and beauty, religion and science, and life and death. Hirst gained prominence in 1988 when he curated the exhibition "Freeze," which showcased his own work and that of his fellow students, and marked the debut of the Young British Artists (YBAs). Hirst's notable series include the Spot paintings, Pharmaceutical paintings, medicine cabinets, and Visual Candy paintings, each exploring different psychological and perceptual concepts. He is also known for iconic works such as "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living," featuring a preserved shark, and "For the Love of God," a platinum skull adorned with diamonds. Hirst has had major retrospectives at museums worldwide, and his collaboration with Sotheby's in 2008 made history in the art market. His exhibition "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" in Venice was a grand and controversial display of objects allegedly recovered from a mythical shipwreck, showcasing his provocative and extravagant approach to art.
One of Hirst's notable contributions to the art world was in 1988 when he curated an exhibition called "Freeze" while studying at Goldsmiths College in London. The exhibition featured his own work as well as that of his fellow students, and it is considered the debut of the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs were known for their combination of entrepreneurial and oppositional attitudes, their use of found materials, and their interest in shock and spectacle. In the final part of "Freeze," Hirst included two of his Spot paintings, which he painted directly onto the wall. The Spot paintings, which he has continued to create since 1986, consist of multicolored spots on white or near-white backgrounds. They are painted by hand using glossy house paint, and there are now over one thousand Spot paintings in existence. In 2012, more than three hundred Spot paintings were displayed simultaneously across all eleven locations of the Gagosian Gallery.
In 1991, Hirst created one of his most iconic works, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." This piece features a fourteen-foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, representing his fascination with bridging the gap between art and science. It is part of his Natural History series, which includes other taxidermied animals like sheep, cows, a zebra, a dove, and even a "unicorn," some of which are bisected or flayed.
From the early 2000s onward, Hirst produced ambitious and captivating works, such as the kaleidoscopic butterfly paintings (2001-08). These paintings were created by arranging thousands of butterfly wings in intricate geometric patterns on painted canvases. Another significant work during this period was "For the Love of God" (2007), which featured a platinum cast of a human skull adorned with 8,601 diamonds. Hirst's artistic achievements were recognized with major retrospectives, including "The Agony and the Ecstasy" at the Museo Archeological Nazionale in Naples in 2004 and a retrospective at Tate Modern in London in 2012.
In 2017, Hirst presented the exhibition "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" in Venice. Indeed, Damien Hirst has had a significant number of exhibitions and retrospectives throughout his career, solidifying his position as one of the most prominent contemporary artists. His works have been showcased in renowned institutions worldwide, including the Tate Modern in London and the Museo Archeological Nazionale in Naples. One of the notable events in Hirst's career was his groundbreaking collaboration with Sotheby's in 2008. The auction, titled "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," bypassed the traditional artist/dealer system and showcased his artworks directly to the public. The auction raised a staggering £111 million ($198 million) over the course of two days, making it a historic event in the art world.
"Treasures" spanned two museums and featured hundreds of objects supposedly recovered from a mythical shipwreck. The exhibition presents 189 pieces made from a diverse range of precious materials, including bronze, marble, malachite, rock crystal, silver, and gold. The creation of this extraordinary display took over a decade and cost more than $65 million, making it arguably the most extravagant and expensive exhibition ever produced by a single artist. The sheer grandeur and opulence of "Treasures" captured attention and sparked controversy, overshadowing other art events happening in Venice at the time, including the 2017 Venice Biennale. This polarizing aspect of the exhibition showcases Hirst's ability to command attention and generate debate with his provocative and controversial approach to art.
In summary, Damien Hirst's career has been marked by numerous exhibitions and retrospectives, with his work being showcased in prestigious institutions around the world. His collaboration with Sotheby's in 2008 revolutionized the art market, and his exhibition "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" in Venice stands as a testament to his audacious and captivating artistic vision. "Treasures" is in all likelihood the most extravagant and expensive show of work that a single artist has ever produced.