The first thing you think of when you hear the name Damien Hirst is a shark in a box. Hirst’s infamous piece The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, cemented his name as a figurehead for the YBAs. However, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, his obsession with death remains unsated.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Hirst defends his fascination: “I just always think about life and that very quickly runs into death, but I don't think it's a morbid thing.”
However, to present Hirst as a grim reaper obsessive is unfair. Indeed, his more recent corpus is more child friendly. His “spin paintings”, created by squeezing tubes of paint on a spinning canvas, are the type of art that Hirst is the very first to admit “anyone” can do.
He continues: “The whole thing of an artist is you kind of sit in the studio with a blank canvas, tortured and tormented, trying to work out what to paint. Spin paintings are much more generous.
“I have machines which I take to schools and do spin paintings, and everybody loves them, everybody can make a good one. You know, kids are probably better than bank managers, but even bank managers make good ones.”
It is estimated that Hirst is the UK’s richest artist, worth around £315 million. His apparent lack of skill has been a continued subject of debate in the art world.
Hirst is under no illusions regarding his artist capability. He says: "I got an E in my A-level art, because I was supposed to draw something precisely and I just wanted to throw paint around.”
However, Hirst’s conception of what great art actually is, is refreshing: “I always try and judge things by how children would see it. A great reaction to art, for me, has always been ‘wow’. I've always preferred things like natural history museums to art galleries.
“You can walk into an art gallery and feel a bit out of place, whereas in the Natural History Museum, everybody welcomes you with open arms. It's about exploration and discovery. You see a giant dinosaur and you go ‘wow’.”
This concept has inspired Hirst’s latest partnership with Snapchat, a filter that allows anyone to make a spiral painting. The money from the filter will go towards Partners in Health.
Hirst concludes: “Art should be generous and it's great if we can help.”
The Snapchat filter is out now.