“Death’s just something that inspires me, not something that pulls me down. I used to get called morbid at school. I have always loved horror films; I like being frightened.” This quote by artist Damien Hirst is a brief explanation of his interest and inspiration behind his various works on the theme of death. Hirst has used dead animals preserved in formaldehyde for his artworks on this theme which garnered attention to his work. Hirst has also worked on paintings and artworks using carcasses, cabinets, diamonds etc., which also are based on the central theme of death. His works typically depict the dead and the living, love and fear, physical decay and malady. Hirst is considered one the most successful and infamous British artists of his generation for creating and selling some of the most expensive works ever.
Following are ten of Hirst’s artworks that have garnered attention from people across the world.
1. The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ is one of the most notable artworks of Damien Hirst. This artwork consists of a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde viewed through the glass-panel display case. The original piece, however, has been replaced due to deterioration. This particular work invokes the feeling of fear as one sees the deadly expression on the face of the shark.
2. Away From The Flock
This work consists of a dead sheep that is preserved in a formaldehyde solution in a glass-walled tank. The sheep, however, is fixed in a way such that it appears to be alive and mid-jump. Three versions of this sculpture have been made, with the first one appearing to be mid-jump by, and the other two are more similar. The artist explains that this piece demonstrates being away from or not connected to something, and also away from the living.
3. End of an Era
This sculpture is a severed bull’s head with golden horns, where the horns are crowned with a solid gold disc. The head is suspended in formaldehyde and encased in a golden vitrine. Damien Hirst has used this sculpture to symbolize the worshipping of a false idol. This artwork is connected to another one of Hirst’s works, titled ‘The Golden Calf’.
4. For The Love of God
Hirst shows this glittering effigy of death that asks the viewer to look at the grim skull in all its bejewelled splendour. The sculpture is a platinum replica of a human skull encrusted with diamonds, but the teeth are real. Placed on a black pedestal at eye level with black all around, the unsettling piece pops up even more as the diamonds glimmer in the light while the black draws the light in.
5. The Golden Calf
This piece consists of a calf placed in a formaldehyde solution. The hooves and horns are made with gold with a solid gold disk of the Egyptian goddess, Hathor, placed in between the horns.
This is the first ‘kaleidoscope’ painting done by Damien Hirst and is also one of his famous butterfly paintings. Despite the use of butterflies of different sizes and colours, the artist has managed to create a sense of balance in this work of art. The artist conveys the eternal beauty of these butterflies despite them being dead.
7. Lullaby Spring
This sculpture is made using handcrafted coloured pills in a cabinet. The pills are arranged by Hirst colour-wise to create an ethereal piece such that they remind one of the colours of spring. This is one of the four lullaby cabinets by Hirst. They all were collectively named as Lullaby Seasons.
8. Memories of Moments With You
This piece is one of Damien Hirst’s diamond cabinets. It is made of gold plated stainless steel and glass cabinet, aluminium, nickel and cubic zirconia. The gold plated cabinet creates a perfect backdrop for the colourful cubic zirconia pieces or the “diamonds”.
9. Here Today Gone Tomorrow
This piece was made using fish skeletons and fish suspended in formaldehyde. The glass cabinets are in a symmetrical cross-shape. The sculpture shows how the flesh eventually deteriorates with time, leaving behind the skeleton by using both fish suspended in formaldehyde and also fish skeletons. The artwork has been termed as beautiful and complex.
10. Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
This artwork is another one of Damien Hirst’s medicine cabinet sculptures. This particular artwork has been created using pills consumed to treat HIV/AIDS. The pills are arranged in a sterilized steel casing having glass doors. The use of these pills is symbolic of fighting nearly unbeatable conditions and going on in life.
- TheFamousPeople. 25 Meaningful Quotes by Damien Hirst. [Online]. Available at: https://quotes.thefamouspeople.com/damien-steven-hirst-1121.php. [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Elizabeth Manchester (2009). ‘Away From the Flock’, Damien Hirst. [Online]. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hirst-away-from-the-flock-ar00499 [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Gagosian. Damien Hirst: End of an Era. [Online]. Available at: https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2010/damien-hirst-end-of-an-era/ [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Rudy Fuchs (2007). Victory Over Decay. [Online]. Available at: https://www.damienhirst.com/texts/20071/jan–rudi-fuchs [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Icon-Icon (2017). Damien Hirst’s Golden Calf: A Complex and Controversial Work of Art. [Online]. Available at: https://www.icon-icon.com/en/damien-hirsts-golden-calf-a-complex-and-controversial-work-of-art/ [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Phillips. Damien Hirst. [Online]. Available at: https://www.phillips.com/detail/damien-hirst/UK010407/239 [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].
- Vrushali Padia (2021). Million-Dollar Art: Damien Hirst’s 10 Most Expensive Works Ever Sold. [Online]. Available at: https://www.therichest.com/rich-powerful/million-dollar-art-damien-hirsts-10-most-expensive-works-ever-sold/ [Accessed date: 28 November 2021].