Damien Hirst: The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living in London

The most famous and well-known piece by Damien Hirst stands in the middle of a big room which consists of three different areas. I am sure you know what piece I am talking about?

His forbidding shark: The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991). As this is not the first time I have seen it, I am not as impressed by  it as I was when I visited the MOMA in New York three years ago. Notably, I was decidedly less scared than when I stood in front of the shark for the first time. At the MOMA, on an upper floor level, I could not move away from the massive vitrine filled with formaldehyde and a real death shark for almost 15 minutes. After my fear had eased I moved around the shark and observed it from every angle possible, took pictures and watched little children looking at it when a tour guide told them something about the art work. The kids did not even look slightly scared. One of the girls even leaned on the glass, getting even closer to the shark. Honestly, I do not think that the children could comprehend the realness of the object.

To overcome the barrier to consider the art object without any feelings of fear, I allowed myself as much time as I needed to let the shark have an effect on me. It worked; standing there felt like a shock therapy and I lost the sense of anxiety after about ten minutes.

I studied Damien Hirst’s shark during my last year at school. Our fine art teacher did not give his opinion on Hist’s work, but let us tell him how we observed it and what we think about it. At the age of seventeen, I could not judge whether I like what Damien Hirst creates.

Dead animals in vitrines? That was not what I had considered as art when I was a teenager. But with time, and knowledge about the art world, I have had to view that contemporary art has moved to the creation of shocks and to processing originality. Nonetheless, is the creation of contemporary art more than finding a way to produce art economically?

Of course, that is exactly what Damien Hirst’s retrospective at the Tate Modern in London shows. However, the majority of art critics only strongly criticizes his work, and the way he changed the operations of the art market. By that, I am referring to sky-rocking prices for contemporary art works; and to the fact that even universities are lecturing on his business and self-promotion concept; in particular, the London Business School. You have to keep in mind however, that hardly anyone is praising his contribution to the field of art.

Notably, it constitutes a move from a classical to a more perverse form of art. Clearly, we cannot deny that time is changing, and that society has been looking at advanced and laboriously created pieces of art for several centuries, and yet – we are still shocked by the banality of how contemporary artists work. But, this does not mean that new art is now less valued than works by  Old Masters (also proved by the latest auctions), but that humanity has become more educated, including contemporary artists; hence, they do care more about how they promote themselves to earn a good living and strive for an independent life style.



One thought on “Damien Hirst: The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living in London

  1. Fantastic post. Great discussion about the credibility of artists trying to earn a living from their work. It would seem that society prefers artists to die before they make any money and Hirst more than goes against that idea. Some very good points about the work produced by contemporary artists and the skill involved. Food for thought……

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