When you think of art, you think of exquisite paintings, lavish monuments and quirky sculptures… but what about taxidermy? This is the story of an interesting and bizarre piece of once living art that went up for sale.
Damien Hirst is a British contemporary artist who was born on June 7, 1965, in Bristol, England. He emerged as a prominent figure in the art world in the 1990s as part of the Young British Artists (YBAs) movement. Hirst's work often explores themes of mortality, science, and the human condition.
Hirst is known for his use of unusual materials, such as animals, pharmaceuticals, and taxidermy in his artwork, but perhaps his most controversial piece of art was his work titled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" which features a 14-foot tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde. The artwork became a source of controversy and established Hirst as one of the leading YBAs.
The shark was caught off Hervey Bay in Queensland, Australia, by a fisherman commissioned to do so. Hirst wanted something "big enough to eat you”.
In 1991, Hirst sold the artwork to advertising mogul Charles Saatchi for £50,000. However, in 1992, the shark began to deteriorate, and Saatchi requested that Hirst replace it with a new shark. Hirst refused, claiming that the decay was part of the artwork's natural process and was an integral aspect of the piece. Because the shark was initially preserved poorly, it began to decompose, and the surrounding liquid grew murky. Hirst attributed some of the decay to the fact that the Saatchi Gallery had added bleach to the fluid.
This dispute led to a lengthy legal battle between the two parties, which was eventually settled out of court. Saatchi kept the original shark and commissioned Hirst to create a new version of the artwork, which he then subsequently sold for £6.5 million.
The artwork also sparked debates about the nature of art, the commodification of art, and the ethics of using animal remains in art. Hirst had built a career out of doing this, and one estimate puts the number of creatures killed for Hirst's pieces at 913,450, including animals and insects.
Hirst's work continues to provoke and challenge traditional notions of art, but also has been littered in moral and conscious responsibility about the commercialisation of killing animals.
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