What’s the difference between being Damien Hirst and eating a BigMac?

What’s the difference between being Damien Hirst and eating a BigMac?

If you’ve ever done GCSE art, or haven’t been living under a rock, you most likely know the ins and outs (especially the ins) of Damien Hirsts work.

However, for you rock dwellers here’s the rundown; Damien Steven Hirst is an English born artist making his debut during the 90s as one of the Young British Artists, a group of artists known best for using shock tactics to make statements/ claim fame and money, with Hirst reportedly being the richest UK artist to date racking in a whopping $384 million Net worth.

But what did he do that was so shocking it made people throw such copious amounts of cash at him? Well, although he’s got some lovely paintings of colourful dots he’s primarily known for his series of artworks of dead animals preserved in formaldehyde. Are you super shocked? Nahhh me neither really. Although the thought of dead animals should be fairly gross to any normal person, most people come into contact with them several times a day, or usually three: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just because they’re packaged differently doesn’t make them any less of a dead animal, and according to Damien himself “cut us all in half, were all the fucking same.” So why is seeing a cow cut in half in a museum groundbreaking, but choosing the juiciest cut of beef at the butchers is perfectly mundane? And if we’re all the same inside how would we react seeing a human halved? Would we be more shocked or could we even tell the difference?

walking around the Damien Hirst exhibit in London I couldn’t help but be confused at the look of mild nausea on the faces of the viewers. Is it something about the white walls or bright lights that suddenly humanises the animals trapped in their glass tombs? Or is it that we’re confronted with seeing their faces? We’re used to seeing their insides at the local Tescos, their outsides like that taxidermy deer head that just looks so great above the fireplace, we even wear them, remember that cute fur coat you just bought the other day?

So why are we shocked? Or are we even shocked anymore? Are those looks of nausea really down to boredom? Could it be that when he started out in the 80s people may have been genuinely shocked at this confrontation of death and this blatant display of gore may have been enough to drop the jaw of any upstanding citizen, but usher in the 21st century and the age of social media and having the whole world literally at our fingertips, is there such thing as seeing something truly new and shocking anymore? If you’ve ever reposted one of those “end animal abuse” videos of the suspicious origins of how chicken nuggets are really made, the Damien Hirst exhibition may not even be the worst thing you’ve seen this week.


speaking of suspicious origins, one thing I did wonder walking around the exhibition wasn’t how deep and meaningful his work was but where the hell did he get all these bloody animals from? And did they die of natural causes or was Hirst the orchestrator of their demise in the name of art? After a quick google search i learned I wasn’t the only one concerned for the herds of sheep with the misfortune of crossing Hirsts path. It’s estimated by Artnet that a total of 913,450 creatures have been displayed in his morbid instillations and although a large majority of this number are insects, this fact alone shocked me more than anything I saw in the actual museum and after a bit of Damien deep diving found he’s had a few run ins with the RSPCA as well as other animal rights groups over the ethicality of where he’s sourcing the subjects of his art, with one group known as  ‘100% Animalist’ dumping (pun intended) 88 pounds if manure on the steps of his Venice exhibition. Admittedly after a lot of searching I was unable to find the origins of where he gets many of his more exotic animals, such as the zebra, but insists many of his subjects (not victims, he promises) are from sources such as the Billingsgate fish market and London taxidermist Emily Mayor so this begs the question if we as a society are okay with the killing of animals for taxidermy, clothing and a 20 minute meal, why do we draw the line at eternalising them in formaldehyde for millions of people to look at for years on end?

So, this leaves me with what sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke; really, what is the different between being Damien Hirst and eating a BigMac?


Back to blog

Leave a comment