Damien Hirst was born in Bristol, England in 1965. While still a student at Goldsmith's College in 1988, he curated the now renowned student exhibition, Freeze, held in east London. In this exhibition, Hirst brought together a group of young artists who would come to define cutting-edge contemporary art in the 1990s. In 1991, he had his first solo exhibition at the Woodstock Street Gallery, entitled In and Out of Love, in which he filled the gallery with hundreds of live tropical butterflies, some of which were hatched from the monochrome canvases that hung the walls. In 1992, he was part of the ground breaking Young British Artists exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. In this show, he exhibited his now famous 'Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living', a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde. That same year he was nominated for the prestigious Tate Gallery Turner Prize, and later won that coveted award in 1995.
Hirst's best known artworks are his paintings, medicine cabinet sculptures, and glass tank installations. For the most part, his paintings have taken on two styles. One is an arrangement of color spots with titles that refer to pharmaceutical chemicals, known as Spot paintings. The second, his Spin paintings, are created by centrifugal force, when Hirst places his canvases on a spinner, and pours the paint as they spin. In the medicine cabinet pieces Hirst redefines sculpture with his arrangements of various drugs, surgical tools, and medical supplies. His tank pieces, which contain dead animals, that are preserved in formaldehyde, are another kind of sculpture and directly address the inevitable mortality of all living beings. All of Hirst's works contain his ironic wit, and question art's role in contemporary culture.
He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Into Me / Out of Me, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2006), In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Tate Britain, the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) and Century City, Tate Modern (2001). Solo exhibitions include Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005) and Archaeological Museum, Naples (2004). He received the DAAD fellowship in Berlin in 1994 and the Turner Prize in 1995.
Tate Modern to hold the first retrospective of his work in a British institution in 2012 (4 April – 9 September 2012). This will be the first substantial survey of his work in a British institution and will bring together key works from over twenty years. The exhibition will include iconic sculptures from his Natural History series, including The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991, in which he suspended a shark in formaldehyde. Also included will be vitrines such as A Thousand Years from 1990, medicine cabinets, pill cabinets and instrument cabinets in addition to seminal paintings made throughout his career using butterflies and flies as well as spots and spins. The two-part installation In and Out of Love, not shown in its entirety since its creation in 1991 and Pharmacy 1992 will be among the highlights of the exhibition.
Hirst lives and works in London and Devon.