The Damien Hirst You Didn't Know: 8 Unconventional Works From the Artist's Tate Retrospective, Explained

Damien Hirst and Angus Fairhurst, "A Couple of Cannibals Eating a Clown (I Should Coco)," 1993
(© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012 Angus Fairhurst © Estate of Angus Fairhurst courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London )

LONDON — Damien Hirst has been so overwhelmingly omnipresent for the last two decades that you might be forgiven for thinking you've already seen it all: the shark, the medicine cabinets, the spot/spin/butterfly paintings, and the cattle floating in formaldehyde. And all these works are indeed there in Tate Modern's just-opened survey in London, including even the diamond-encrusted skull "For the Love of God" (2007), a work that is as notorious as it is iconic, which is presented in its own little viewing room like a relic in a shrine.

One of the show's most striking conclusions is that the origin of virtually all the types of work that made Hirst a global brand can be traced back to his student and early graduate years, circa 1986-1992. Most of what followed have been endless declensions of the same handful of ideas, increasing in production value as the artist's market prices went through the roof, but staying basically the same in their underlying essence.


Still, curator Ann Gallagher promised that there would be a few surprises, and indeed there are. "Damien Hirst" is also a chance to see a few works by the world's most famous artist that are rarely shown or discussed: the artist's eccentric first spot painting; his contribution to the legendary "Freeze" exhibition that catapulted him to stardom; and a selection of his dark video works.

To get a peek of a selection of some of the less-well-known works in the show, along with ARTINFO UK's explanations of their background, click on the slide show

A version of this article originally appeared on ARTINFO UK.