Damien Hirst at Tate Modern

Who is he?  Damien Hirst is a contemporary artist famous for his innovative works and unusual choice of materials. He was a founding member of the Young British Artists (YBA), a group that was active in the 1990s, after he graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in 1988.  

Why you have heard of him.Damien Hirst is constantly in the press for stirring up both positive and negative reviews of his art. One of his most recognizable works of art is entitled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) that features a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde. Hirst has come under attack for being inauthentic since he does not always complete the artworks himself and instead relies on assistants.

What the art world says.
Positive Tracy Emin, a fellow YBA, says that Hirst is as brilliant as Andy Warhol. Charles Saatchi has been a high profile patron of Hirst for many years.
Negative Prominent art critics and historians, including Robert Hughes and Julian Spalding, criticise Hirst for being inauthentic and damaging to the status of contemporary art.

What to expect at the exhibition at the Tate Modern. Hirst’s 70 works that span over twenty years of his career will inevitably draw big crowds. But also be ready for a slightly unpleasant smell emanating from his work A Thousand Years (1990) that features flies hovering around a rotting cow’s head. You could also be host to a stray butterfly in one of the exhibition’s rooms-but there are staff helping to ensure that the winged friends do not leave with you.  

The exhibition is user-friendly and easy to navigate. You can move easily from one room to the next seeing all tricks Hirst does best. It is a perfect opportunity for families to ogle at the art and enjoy the interactive experience. Enjoy the beach ball suspended in midair as his spin paintings swirl around you on the walls. And for those who aren’t squeamish, go and stand between formaldehyde filled cases holding a cow split in half. The exhibition ends with a final work in formaldehyde: a dove, suspended near the top of the case, lifting its wings expectantly.  

And if the exhibition isn’t enough, and this being Hirst, there are plenty of things to buy in the bookstore. The artist has created wallpaper, deckchairs, and plates with his signature butterflies, pills, and spin paintings on them (for a hefty price, of course).

Although Hirst received an ‘E’ grade in A-level art, he has clearly had the last laugh. And whether you like or dislike his work, this exhibition offers an entertaining performance, especially for a first time viewer, or families looking for an interactive experience.   

The exhibition is open at Tate Modern until September 9; £14; www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/damien-hirst