Heading up the Young British Artists (YBA) movement in the late 80s, Damien Hirst remains an audacious contemporary provocateur. If you’re looking for original Damien Hirst prints and editions for sale or would like to sell, request a complimentary valuation and browse our network’s most in-demand works.
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British artist Damien Hirst is widely hailed as the enfant terrible of the contemporary art world. Hirst is one of the most prominent figures in the Young British Artists (YBA) movement, an internationally-renowned artist group known for their controversial work and dominance of the British art scene during the 1990s. A contemporary of well-known YBAs like Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhurst and Jenny Saville, Hirst is not shy to scandalise and shock the world with his art pieces.
Obsessed with the themes of life and death, it comes as no surprise that they have become a central motif in all of Hirst’s works. From his seemingly innocuous spot paintings to his controversial art installations involving animal carcasses, Hirst’s artworks are weighted with meaning and symbolism. A trailblazer and rule-breaker, Hirst is unafraid of showing his uniqueness through his pieces.
Hirst’s preoccupation with death and mortality is encapsulated in his 1992 art installation Pharmacy. A clean, minimalistic recreation of an actual pharmacy with white shelves stocked with medicines, the installation combines both life and death in a seamless manner. Hirst’s 2007 sculpture For the Love of God also exemplifies his flair for the morbid and unconventional, initially recognised in his Turner Prize win in 1995. The work involves the recreation of an 18th-century human skull, covered in 8601 diamonds, with a large pear-shaped diamond attached to it's forehead. Costing Hirst and his team £12 million to produce, the work was sold for £50 million to an anonymous consortium.
Another of Hirst’s works that sent shockwaves throughout the art world and beyond, was his 1991 installation The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. This work encased a 14-foot tiger shark in a large tank filled with formaldehyde. Costing Hirst £50,000 to execute, this installation captures a moment between life and death. The work was eventually sold in 2004 to Steven A. Cohen for an unnamed amount.
Animals suspended in formaldehyde solution are among Hirst’s best-known early works and the artist offered a small menagerie of pickled creatures in his auction with Sotheby’s, Damien Hirst – Beautiful Inside My Head Forever (Evening Sale) on 15 September 2018 in London.
The star lot of the night was a bull with solid 18-carat hoofs, horns and a golden disc on its head – a nod to the false idol that enraged Moses in the Biblical story. Sold for £10,345,250, it is Hirst’s most expensive work in pounds (in dollars, it fetched US$14,400,000), but The Golden Calf did not exceed its £8,000,000-12,000,000 estimate and was, perhaps, not the sacred cow Sotheby’s had hoped for.
image © Sotheby's / Lullaby Spring © Damien Hirst 2002
Considered Hirst‘s most expensive work for its value in dollars (US$19,200,000 million), Lullaby Spring – a steel and glass cabinet holding 6,136 individually painted pills – achieved over three times its £3,000,000-4,000,000 estimate when it sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction in London on 21 June 2007. At £9,600,000, it set a new auction record price for Hirst and established him as Europe’s most expensive living artist at the time.
Lullaby Spring is one in a series of four pill cabinets known as Lullaby, The Seasons. Christie’s had sold Lullaby Winter in their New York auction in May 2007 for US$7,432,000, or £3,700,000, although the buyer never paid. Just over a month later, Lullaby Spring increased the value of Hirst’s pill cabinets by US$12,000,000 when it was offered at Sotheby’s.
image © Sotheby's / The Kingdom © Damien Hirst 2008
The second-highest lot on Sotheby’s dedicated Hirst auction on 15 September 2008, The Kingdom presented a tiger shark in a black vitrine. Hirst’s most famous tiger shark sculpture, The Physical Impossibility of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living, made headlines in 2005 when art collector and patron Charles Saatchi privately sold the work to an American buyer for nearly £7,000,000.
The Kingdom was not as large as The Physical Impossibility, but there was energetic bidding for the chance to own a Hirst shark – at nearly £9,600,000 million, The Kingdom achieved far more than its £4,000,000-6,000,000 estimate.
image © Phillips / The Void © Damien Hirst 2000