Artist. Apparently. Hirst was the winner of the 1995 Turner Prize, which is given to artists, so this may support the assertion that he is an artist.

Hirst was born in 1965, in Bristol. From 1986 to 1989 he studied a fine art degree at Goldsmith's College, University of London. Some of his most famous works include dead sheep, sliced cows and swordfish, all preserved in formaldehyde. These works were controversial not only because, like a great deal of modern art, the chattering classes enjoy debates about what constitutes art, but also because it raised the heckles of animal rights campaigners over whether it was acceptable to kill animals for art.

Hirst has been quoted as saying he wanted to make art that everybody could believe in

Most recently, Hirst hit the headlines again for his piece Hymn, a 20ft bronze statue, which was purchased by Charles Saatchi for £1M. Describe as the first key work of British art for the 21st century. In May of 2000, Hirst made undisclosed goodwill payments to Norman Emms, designer of the £14.99 toy Young Scientist Anatomy Set made by Humbrol Limited. The similarities between the two figures is striking, even allowing for the similarites you might expect between anatomical models, one might at least have expected the shades in the colouring to differ. Apparently this did not occur to Mr Hirst. Yeah, really got me believing in that bit of art.

Other notable projects include dear Damien's involvement with Fat Les, a collection of luminaries such as Keith Allen, Michael Barrymore and the bass player from Blur, who get together to record football songs.

Misunderstood genius or talentless self-promoting wanker? Oh reeeaaallly tough one to call.

Inspiration is one thing, plagiarism quite another, which is why the former is generally admired, the latter condemned. To openly weave another's ideas subtley and cleverly into a new form - whether in music, art, literature, engineering, computer-programming ... - is an achievement to be proud of; copying it wholesale and passing it off as one's own is not, and, as gm_food justly observes, is unlikely ever to constitute art that everybody could believe in.

If Damien Hirst had had the intellectual (and moral) honesty to own up to copying a children's toy without the threat of prosecution and exposure hanging over his head, the ultimate reaction of public and critics might have been different. Unwittingly, admirers praised the clever way that the sculpture 'Hymn' stripped away the layers of the human anatomy to reveal man's inner workings, vulnerability, mortality. And so they applauded the insight, inspiration, creativity, originality of the man who had executed this 'profound' vision. But it turned out that the artist's only creative and imaginative contribution to the piece was to make it very big, and to borrow a punning title from an old Pretenders song: all the clever stuff, the design, the proportions, the anatomical research, the primary colours, had been done by Norman Emms years before. Many people who had hitherto defended Hirst, or given him the benefit of the doubt after previous outings of similarly dubious merit had finally to admit what others had been saying all along: the Emperor has no new clothes and Damien Hirst is a fraud.

Like so much that is produced today for mass consumption, the work of Hirst, Emin, et al. is entirely disposable and forgettable: even its less shallow observations have already been dealt with by more insightful and adept 20th Century artists, from Marinetti to Warhol, and to keep retreading the same old ground is really rather lazy and dull. But there may be nothing wrong with that, as long as everybody, most of all, the 'artists', is honest enough to admit it.

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.

A piece of work by Hirst that
struck me was one in which a cow's head
is in a perspex box with flies and a fly killing
light. The flies breed lay their grubs on the
cow's head. The maggots eat the cow's head turn into
flies and breed again. Along the way many are killed
in the fly killing light. Art no longer a representation
or comment on life but life itself.

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