Art hasn't been about the art since Marcel Duchamp
The title of Damien Hirst's first coffee-table art book sums up what is essential about him, his art, and what many critics above are inevitably missing about Hymn.
I Want to Spend the Rest of my Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now
Damien Hirst does follow in the steps of Andy Warhol, but instead of being a neurotic, feckless, and otherworldly celebrity artist, Damien Hirst is a hard-drinking, country-living, robust celebrity artist. He has beautiful children. He swears, he parties, he makes beautiful art (check his butterfly and dot painting series). He puts out crap hit singles with his celebrity friends. That, right there, is the essence of Hirst's art to me. He is a package.
In other words, he markets the Damien Hirst(tm) brand beautifully.
In other words, the Damien Hirst(tm) brand makes enough money to do exactly whatever Damien Hirst wants.
When "Medicine Chest" (a series of medicine chests filled with different brand-name pharmaceuticals) first hit auction, one chest earned GBP 80,000. As you will recall, the restaurant "Pharmacy" (of which Hirst is part-owner) is lined with 30 of these chests, which puts the street-value of the decor far above the property value of the building - a very unusual occurrence in London.
Medicine Chest is oft-misunderstood. Like his sliced cow ("Some Comfort Gained From the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything": think of a nice, big, juicy steak), Medicine Chest is clever simply because Hirst did it first. Toward the top, the shelves are filled with headache relievers, sinus decongestant, the middle is medicines for ailments of the torso - liver medication, drugs for back pain; and the bottom has foot medicines such as plantar wart reliever. Hirst is making a comment about people and pharmaceuticals. A very simple, clear, and interesting to look at comment.
Hatless pointed out Charles Saatchi is the more likely scoundrel in all of the br_t-art hype, and I agree. That Hirst earns silly money is not his fault, though I am sure he doesn't mind a bit (one of his shows was called "No Sense of Absolute Corruption"). It's the dealers who bid on the art and bring bags of cash and ensuing widespread exposure that initially makes an artist's name known to the non-cognoscenti. So yes, economics, i.e. Saatchi's $tlc$, propelled Hirst's success.
IMHO, ten years on, Hirst continues to produce interesting work, including his various ventures beyond the art world, and therefore continues to be successful.