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One of World's Most Sought-After Living Artists Damien Hirst on CNN's Talk Asia
Damien Hirst on CNN's Talk Asia


HK, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, and Taipei

Wednesday, February 9 at 2030
Thursday, February 10 at 1230
Sunday, February 12 at 1730
Monday, February 14 at 1100

Bangkok and Jakarta

Wednesday, February 9 at 1930
Thursday, February 10 at 1130
Sunday, February 12 at 1630
Monday, February 14 at 1000

Once a poster-boy for a new generation of British artists, Damien Hirst is now a powerhouse on the global contemporary art scene. For more than two decades, he's made a name for himself with his provocative creations including diamond-encrusted skulls and animals floating in formaldehyde. He's also made a small fortune. CNN's Talk Asia catches up with the Turner Prize winner at his latest exhibition in Hong Kong to talk about his inspiration, the controversy surrounding his creations and how he has become one of the world's wealthiest living artists.

Hirst is now one of the world's most sought-after artists but the piece he submitted for his A-level examinations failed to impress and he was given an "E" grade: "I always loved art but I never thought I'd be able to make a career out of it," he says.

He later applied for the fine arts program at Goldsmiths, part of The University of London. "When I told my mom I was going to go to art school, she was thinking why can't you just get a job? There're not many artists who make money, sadly."

Soon after graduating in 1991, he created "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" - a tiger shark floating in a tank filled with formaldehyde. The installation became an iconic piece and Hirst quickly gained both international fame and infamy. His intention to create conversation about life and inevitable death resulted in a debate over animal rights.

"I didn't want an illusion," Hirst says, referring to the encased man-eater. "I want people to really experience a shark big enough to eat you in someway you don't expect it. It wasn't a painting of a shark or a lightbox. I wanted it to be real."

Hirst's penchant for preserving dead animals can also be seen in his other works , including "Mother and Child Divided", a cow and a calf cut into sections, and "Away from the Flock", a sheep in a tank of formaldehyde. He admits that his inspiration may have originated from drawing cadavers in an anatomy class at a young age.

"I was drawing bodies in order to understand the figure and the form," Hirst recalls. "It was quite strange and I didn't understand at the time that I would be taking the actual formaldehyde from there rather than the study. When you look back, it's always strange the things you think will influence you and not the things actually influence you."

And he explains why he preferred drawing dead people at that time: "It would be stranger going straight from school into an art school where a woman just takes her clothes off and sits down in front of you and you have to draw and not laugh." His conclusion is that "dead bodies were easier compared to bare ladies for a teenager."

In 2008, when financial markets around the world were in freefall, Hirst took a huge risk by taking his works straight to auction and bypassing gallery dealers. It was considered an unprecedented move in the art world. "Lots of people say I was a genius and I was very clever when I did that. But I think it was luck," Hirst says.

The massive gamble paid off and the auction fetched nearly 200 million dollars, making Hirst one of the wealthiest living artists in the world. "If people say you can't do that, I say watch me and then do it. In the auction it was the same thing. There is basically no reason why you can't do it."

Highlights of Damien Hirst’s interview with TALK ASIA will be available online at after the first airing.

For more information, please visit

Related links:
Talk Asia official site
Talk Asia Facebook page






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