As one of Britain's most controversial contemporary artists, Damien Hirst both inspired and shocked with his provocative paintings, sculptures, and exhibitions. While attending Goldsmiths College, Hirst challenged the status quo with two definitive art series, "Medicine Cabinets" and "Freeze," both of which were praised by faculty members and students, thus signaling the young Hirst as a promising young talent to watch. Then in 1991 Hirst debuted what would become his most talked-about art series, "Natural History," which featured embalmed creatures in large containers made of glass and steel. The series made him an overnight celebrity among Britain's art world elite and by the latter part of the decade, Hirst had risen to become of the most famous contemporary artists in Britain. In addition to his art work, Hirst also dabbled in film directing, having helmed two short films, "Hanging Around" (1996) and "Live Forever" (2003), as well as a music video for the British pop band Blur. Having already made a name for himself in the British art world, Hirst was officially recognized in 2012 with a major retrospective at London's famed art gallery, Tate Modern, thus forever enshrining his place in history as one of the most important contemporary British artists of his era.
Growing up in Leeds, Hirst became obsessed with death at a very young age. He learned to channel his death obsession into a love and fascination with drawing, and by the age of 16 he began hanging around the anatomy department at Leeds Medical School where he'd have direct access to cadavers. Hirst wanted to capture the human body in all of its unlived-in glory, and began drawing the dead bodies as a way to satisfy his growing fascination with death. In order to pursue his love of drawing more seriously, Hirst moved to London in 1984 where he began studying art at Goldsmiths College. During his time at the college, Hirst began wowing his teachers with his conceptual sculptures and paintings, all of which drew the attention of art dealers in London. After graduation, Hirst made waves in the London art world with a series of "warehouse shows," one of which, called "A Thousand Years," featured the head of a dead cow being devoured by flies and maggots. Throughout the remainder of the decade, Hirst continued to both shock and inspire the art world with his controversial, at times awe-inspiring works. His most famous work during this period was called "Natural History," and featured several dead animals, including a shark and a cow, preserved with formaldehyde in large glass containers. After a brief stint with filmmaking - he directed two short films and a music video for the British pop band Blur - Hirst continued to explore big themes, such as life, death and beauty, in several of his highly-praised art exhibitions in the 2000s. Hirst also became the richest living artist on the planet in the late 2000s after selling a number of highly-priced works, thus putting his personal worth at well over a hundred million dollars. Although Hirst's legacy was already firmly cemented, he was granted a full retrospective of his work in 2012 at London's prestigious art gallery, Tate Modern, thus making him one of the few living artists to receive such a rare honor.