The Most Fascinating Quotes from Damien Hirst's 'Observer' Interview


“I want to make art, create objects that will have meaning for ever,” Damien Hirst explains in a new interview with The Observer’s Sean O’Hagan, which was published over the weekend in UK. “It’s a big ambition, universal truth, but somebody’s gotta do it.” The reason for their sit-down? Hirst, who back in 1996 declared that “museums are for dead artists,” has a mid-career retrospective going up at the Tate Modern beginning on April 4th. There are plenty of revealing sound bites in the piece — which is definitely worth taking the time to read in full if you find the 46-year-old artist and his antics as fascinating (and, at times, completely infuriating) as we tend to. As a teaser, we’ve pulled out a few quick highlights for you after the jump.

On a new “quieter, more reflective” Damien Hirst: “It’s mortality, mate. My eldest boy, Connor, is 16. A few of my friends have died. I’m getting older. I’m not the mad bastard shouting at the world any more… when you’re young, you’re invincible, you’re immortal – or at least you think you are. The possibilities are limitless, you’re inventing the future. Then you get older and suddenly you have a history. It’s fixed. You can’t change anything. I find that a bit disturbing, to be honest.”

On the process of putting the Tate Modern show together: “[It] was like a big 180-degree turn for me. I’m looking back at all this work and trying to make sense of it. Some of it is great, and some of it is unrealized and didn’t make it in there, and some of it is just shit. It’s 25 bloody years of work and, of course, I’m proud of it, proud that I put the effort in, but there’s also one part of me going, ‘How did that happen?'”

On what motivates him: “Even as a kid in drawing class, I had real ambition. I wanted to be the best in the class but there was always some other feller who was better; so I thought, ‘It can’t be about being the best, it has to be about the drawing itself, what you do with it.’ That’s kind of stuck with me. Being best is a false goal, you have to measure success on your own terms.”

On “high-maintenance” pieces like The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of a Living Person: “The formaldehyde works are guaranteed for 200 years. I would like it to always look as fresh as the day I made it, so part of the contract is: if the glass breaks, we mend it; if the tank gets dirty, we clean it; if the shark rots, we find you a new shark.”

On his previous claim that it had “been hard to see the art for the dollar signs”: “Money is massive. I don’t think it should ever be the goal, but I had no money as a kid and so I was maybe a bit more motivated than the rest. I used to argue with Angus [Fairhurst] and Sarah [Lucas] about that all the time when we were starting out and struggling. They’d say: ‘You’re obsessed’ and I’d be like, ‘It’s important.’ See, if you don’t care about it, often you don’t deal with it, then it screws you. I do believe art is more powerful than money, though. I still believe that. And if I ever find out money’s more important, I’ll knock it on the head.”

[via Dangerous Minds]