It’s Official: Damien Hirst is 50. We Review His Life and Career

The YBA is half a century old.

A young Damien Hirst. Photo:

A young Damien Hirst.

On June 7, 2015, Damien Hirst turns 50 years old.

It seems only yesterday that the art world enfant terrible was carousing around London’s Soho neighborhood with fellow Young British Artists like Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin, and the Chapman Brothers, along with Charles Saatchi, Jay Joplin, and various members of Blur.

Hirst first achieved media attention with his thirteen-foot tiger shark in formaldehyde work, titled, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), which was conceived when he was still a student. Since then, his dot paintings and his spin works have been clocking up sales.

In 2007, the artist created a diamond-encrusted skull, titled, For the Love of God, which prompted the art historian Rudi Fuchs to proclaim, “Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself.”

Never one to mince his words, Hirst, who won the Turner Prize in 1995, once said, “It’s amazing what you can do with an E in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw.”

Damien Hirst's Dead Head. Photo: Sotheby's Press Office.

Damien Hirst’s Dead Head.
Photo: Sotheby’s Press Office.

He must have been as surprised as many others when the Tate Modern put on the first British retrospective of his work in 2012, which was the first British institution to do so. In fact, 2012 was an Olympic year for Hirst, since his exhibition became the most visited solo show in the Tate Modern’s history, according to the BBC.

This is all very funny, since Hirst once said: “Museums are for dead artists,” in a 1996 interview with David Bowie at Gagosian Gallery in New York. He continued, “I’d never show my work in the Tate. You’d never get me in that place.”

The much-parodied artist, who once confessed to the BBC, “an an artist you always make work with what’s around you, and money was around me,” was named Britain’s most expensive living artist last year (see artnet News’ Top 10 Most Expensive Living British Artists).

In one Sotheby’s sale, Hirst generated a whopping £111,576,800 ($ 185,407,582), but his record at auction was for his Lullaby Spring (2002), which fetched $19,230,922 at Sotheby’s London.

David Bowie, Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel. <br>Photo: Roxanne Lowit.

David Bowie, Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel.
Photo: Roxanne Lowit.

But recently, Hirst has been in the news more for his own acquisitions than for works people purchased from Gagosian (see Tour Damien Hirst’s Many Real Estate Holdings).

In the last few years, he has bought a huge mansion on London’s Regent’s Park, a restaurant and—yes, really—a town (see Damien Hirst Buys $57 Million London Mansion and Damien Hirst Gets Green Light To Build City).


Damien Hirst.
Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

One of the artists many business holdings is a restaurant in Ilfracombe, Devon. After he created an enormous statue of a vivisected pregnant woman, titled, Verity (2012), which overlooks the bay of the town, he then proposed a 750-home extension. Last July, his plans were approved.

All-in-all, it seems that at the ripe old age of 50, Hirst has done quite well for himself.

“You need a big ego to be an artist,” he told Simon Hattenstone at South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. He continued, “Warhol said a brilliant thing. He said if anybody slags anything off, make more.”

Damien Hirst.Photo:

Damien Hirst.

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