MAKE NO BONES
As his first major retrospective opens at the Tate Modern in London, Ankit Gupta catches up with artist DAMIEN HIRST to discuss his tumultuous journey thus far
Very few artists in the world have achieved cult status in the face of opposition the way British artist Damien Hirst has. In the past, Hirst has been declared a ‘con artist’, and his patrons have been asked to sell his works quickly as they were ‘financially worthless’. Interesting then that the first major Damien Hirst retrospective, ongoing at thetate Modern in London, is drawing his aficionados by the hordes. As far as Hirst himself is concerned, all this hoopla just adds to the whole charm of his works. “Andy Warhol said that great thing didn’t he?‘don’treadyourreviews,weigh them’,” he says with a grin. “It’s always healthy to have both views — people love it, people hate it. I once said that as long as they spell my name right, I don’t mind.” It is perhaps this unfazedattitudethatpropelshirstfurtherinto hisartisticnature,helpinghimcreateevenmore outlandish, shocking works.
Hirst is the world’s most commercially successful living artist, valued at over $320 million today. Amongst the many records he holdsisthatofbeingoneofthemostexpensive living artist, the most hated and admired artist, and also one of the first few artists to have his own gallery. Damien Hirst’s public artgallery,whichwillhousehisowncollection, will open in 2014 in South London. It will feature over 2000 artworks which Hirst has collected over the years, including those by Banksy and Jeff Koons. The massive public structure will host six different galleries and a café. And more recently, keeping with the tradition of surprising everyone, Hirst launched his own website—www. damienhirst.com—where one can see him create artworks live!
Born in the mid 1960s, Hirst was always a rebel at heart, and art was the only subject that interested him. After being refused admission to the Jacob Kramer College of Art (now Leeds College of Art & Design) when he first applied, he ended up studying fine art at Goldsmiths, University of London, a school which had initially refused him a place in the program. It was here that most of what Hirst would eventually create, took root. “I fell in love with conceptual art here; what is fashionable today was minimal and conceptual back then,” he says.
While most students around him were working with abstracts and painting canvases, Hirst was creating artworks with colourful household pots and pans, something that would eventually lead him to the famous Spot Painting series. Asastudent,hewasalsoplaced at a mortuary, which no doubt influenced the creations of his conversations with death.
By the 1990s, Hirst, while still studying art, had successfully envisioned and curated two warehouse shows in disused parts of London. Both saw visits by the connoisseur of art and patron to young artists Charles Saatchi. If legends are to be believed, at one of these shows, Saatchi who arrived in a green Rolls Royce stood open-mouthed at an