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

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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. damien­—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

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