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Happy Birthday, Damien Hirst!

  • Damien Hirst - New Religion - Judas Iscariot, 2005
June 7, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

There is no other contemporary artist as maverick to the art market as Damien Hirst. Foremost among the Young British Artists, Hirst ascended to stardom by making objects that shocked and appalled, and that possessed conceptual depth in both profound and prankish ways. Regarded as contemporary art’s l’enfant terrible, he continues to surprise the public with a witty, genuine, and sometimes even a shocking approach to the craft. Remaining genre-defying, his varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing explores the complex relationship between art, life and death.

On June 7th, Hirst turns 53. We celebrate his birthday with a selection of his works that you can add to your collection.

Featured image: Damien Hirst – New Religion – Judas Iscariot, 2005. Images courtesy Maddox Gallery and ArtWise.

  • Oleoylsarcosine, 2008

Oleoylsarcosine, 2008

Titled Oleoylsarcosine, this etching is part of Hirst’s most famous series of works – Pharmaceutical Paintings, or more commonly known as the Spot paintings. The titles of these works are taken arbitrarily from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalog Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents in which Hirst stumbled across in the early 1990s.

Playing with arrangements of colored spots, the artist removed any physical evidence of human intervention over time, creating works which appear to have been constructed mechanically. Hirst once explained that with these works, he discovered “the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art” – “the harmony of where colour can exist on its own, interacting with other colours in a perfect format.”

See more info about the work here.

  • Yellow Butterfly, 2007

Yellow Butterfly, 2007

A butterfly has been a recurring motif in Damien Hirst’s oeuvre. In many of his works, he uses butterflies and butterfly wings to create the most vivid depictions in terms of both religion and natural science, of the transience of life.

Created in 2007, Yellow Butterfly establishes a powerful visual tension between the frailty and exquisite colors of the butterfly and the background on which it is fastened. Hirst managed to create an effect which is both museological and poetic: the sense of a tiny life arrested, and of transient, short-lived beauty.

See more info about the work here.

  • Damien Hirst - UP From Sanctum, 2016

UP From Sanctum, 2016

Originally inspired by a Victorian tea tray, Hirst produced his first Kaleidoscope painting in 2001 by placing thousands of different colored butterfly wings in intricate geometric patterns into household paint. In these works, the artist references the spiritual symbolism of the butterfly, used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery to signify the resurrection.

Differing from his previous use of butterflies, one of Hirst’s most enduring “universal triggers”, the artist chose to use only the iridescent wings in these works, divorcing the butterflies from “the real thing”. Titled UP From Sanctum, this kaleidoscopic butterfly etching is vibrant, colorful and intricately composed.

See more info about the work here.

  • Bust of Frank, 2008

Bust of Frank, 2008

Created in 2008, Bust of Frank depicts Frank Dunphy, Hirst’s business manager of 15 years. It was created on the occasion of Dunphy’s 70th birthday. The artist here plays with the legacy of the ancient Greek sculpture and the kitsch aesthetics embodied in vibrant psychedelic colors. Pre-painting, the piece was installed during Dunphy’s Birthday Party at Home House, London, 2007.

See more info about the work here.

  • The Elusive Truth

The Elusive Truth, 2005

Created in 2005, The Elusive Truth is part of the Fact series, featuring paintings which appear as exact copies of photographs.  Their subject matter are images from newspapers and science journals, or details from Hirst works. As the artist explained, the series was intended as an exploration into our relationship with imagery:

Art has been in a constant battle for hundreds of years with every other kind of image-making … newspapers are supposed to be about facts and truth, and you believe you get a true view of the world from these images when you don’t: they’re completely fake.

See more info about the work here.

  • The Last Supper, 2005

The Last Supper, 2005

An offset lithographic print, The Last Supper is wholly representative of Damien Hirst’s provocative and persistently unsettling oeuvre. It depicts a colorful map with the thirteen highlighted nations that openly possess nuclear weaponry or are alleged to do so. Accompanying each country is the name of one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, with Jesus himself representing Israel.

In the title of the piece, Hirst alludes to the notion that our literal “last supper” is just a detonation away. Discussing this series, the artist remarked:

Where’s God now? God’s fucked off. So all these big issues–like art and science and cancer–are all clambering about on this barren landscape where God used to exist.

See more info about the work here.

  • Damien Hirst - New Religion - Judas Iscariot, 2005

New Religion - Judas Iscariot, 2005

This piece has been exhibited in a traveling exhibition New Religion, featuring a series of silkscreen prints, as well as paintings and sculptures, which address Hirst’s conviction that “science is the new religion for many people.”

It’s as simple and as complicated as that really.

Hirst’s vision is a marriage of the sacred and the profane, a contemplation of the fragility of life and the quest for longevity.

See more info about the work here.

  • Mickey (Blue Glitter), 2016

Mickey (Blue Glitter), 2016

In Mickey (Blue Glitter) from 2016, Damien Hirst playfully incorporates the visual language of his spot paintings to create his interpretation of the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse. The image is rendered simply with a dozen circles, at once evoking a geometric abstraction painting and pointillism due to its glittery texture.

This work is a perfect example of Hirst’s fusion of high and low culture, adding in his characteristically irreverent humor.

See more info about the work here.