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Published in 2004 to accompany a major retrospective in Naples in 2004, The Agony and the Ecstasy is a thorough and intriguing catalogue of Damien Hirst’s work to date. As the figurehead of a new wave of British artists that emerged in the 1990’s, Hirst has pioneered a fresh and challenging attitude and approach to the production and exhibition of contemporary art - ‘a legitimate heir to Marcel Duchamp’ and ‘a bit pop, a bit minimalist, and a bit conceptual’. Through 16 chapters, this catalogue intelligently plots Hirst’s development with social and cultural contextual analysis, highlighting significant factors that informed and influenced the growth of his ideas and work from the early collage/constructions made during the early 1980s; the innovative curatorial project Freeze in 1988; through to landmark works such as ‘A Thousand Years (1990)’, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)’ and his installation ‘Romance in the Age of Uncertainty (2003)’.
Accompanying the 91 full colour plates are comprehensive and engaging essays by the three curators of the retrospective, and an interview with Hirst which runs throughout the publication, giving an insightful understanding of the motivation behind Hirst’s most successful projects. The Agony and the Ecstasy also explores projects and installations that have pushed against or broken what many have perceived as the perimeter of Hirst practice, such as the Pharmacy restaurant, illustrating the multi-layered and diverse thinking of the most successful British artist of recent times.
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Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965. He first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and that of his contemporaries at Goldsmiths college, staged in a disused London warehouse. Since this time Hirst has become widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation.
Through a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing Hirst has sought to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. Alongside over 80 solo exhibitions he has worked on numerous curatorial projects. In 2008, Hirst took the unprecedented step of bypassing gallery involvement in selling 244 new works at a Sotheby’s, London auction entitled ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’.
Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and his contribution to British art over the last two and a half decades has been acknowledged in a major solo retrospective exhibited at Tate Modern, London. He lives in Devon and has studios in Gloucester and London.
Text © Damien Hirst & Science Ltd., All rights reserved, 2012