Damien Hirst burst onto the art scene in the 90s. Upon graduation from Goldsmiths, University of London, he had the idea to bring several of his classmates together – this was the beginning of Young British Artists: artists using shock techniques that would quickly find a spot for themselves in the press. In 1992, collector and ad magnate Saatchi, owner of one of London’s foremost art galleries the Saatchi Gallery, would put the Young British Artists’ work on display during an exhibit series. The work of Damien Hirst would soon have tongues wagging – his animals that were cut into pieces and plunged into large jars of formaldehyde piqued the curiosity of many. Ever since, his taste for money, scandal, and mystical art have spoken for themselves. His greatest overlying theme is death, nothing more nothing less.
For “art to be more real than a painting is”, he pursued his exploration of animals frozen for eternity by putting the decomposition process on hold. Soon, Damien Hirst would become a rock star of contemporary art. But in 2008, he threw the art world for a loop once more by directly attacking the most traditional sales channel for an artist. It was Paul Durand-Ruel who instituted the art gallery system at the end of the 19th century and procured an upper hand in laying claim to the totality of an artist’s creation. And so in 2008, Damien Hirst surprised everyone by directly selling his works with Sotheby’s. 223 original artworks were put up for auction despite the fact that Hirst was unrepresented by any art galleries – this was a first since the auction house’s creation in 1744.
Among these artworks was Damien Hirst’s crown jewel: Golden Calf, with an estimated value between 8 and 12 million pounds sterling. This piece is definitely worth its weight in gold. The animal, only 18 months old, was put in a formaldehyde aquarium with hooves, horns, and the disk of goddess Hathor between its 18 carat gold horns. To exhibit this piece that weighs 10 tons, Damien Hirst questioned the relationship between his contemporaries and idols. Is it the gold on the calf or the artistic process that gives the piece its value? The question remains unanswered, but nevertheless, Golden Calf was acquired for the hefty sum of 10 million pounds.