Monday, October 17, 2011

Bio-Art: Formaldehyde?!

Art is meant to spark controversy. Modern art in particular really plays with what it means to be art. "But is it art?" can be asked of almost any modern art piece, especially when it comes to mixing art with science.

Damien Hirst is a British artist famous for a number of biological art pieces. He is a 46-year-old man still living in Britain. Among other things, he pioneered the "Britart" trend of the 1990's. He even designed a piano for Lady Gaga. We'll be seeing this guy again.

For now, though...

Yes, that is a real shark. No, it is no longer alive.

Damien Hirst looooves doing things in formaldehyde. Besides this shark, he has done preserved art with cows on several occasions, sheep, and dogs. There will be more of him in future weeks, but for now, know that he wandered a tiny bit into hubris territory by plating a cow's horns and hooves in 18-karat gold. Of course he put it in formaldehyde. 

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living is one of Hirst's many formaldehyde pieces. It was commissioned in 1991 by one Charles Saatchi, who apparently had nothing better to do than get his name attached to an undead shark. The tiger shark itself cost 6,000 British pounds. The whole display cost 50,000. Whatever floats your boat, Saatchi...whatever floats your boat.


As per the reeaaaalllyyy long title, the shark is supposed to be so lifelike that it can inspire fear even after death. Small wonder; if you saw a 14-foot shark up close and personal, you would probably flinch. The first shark decayed after a while in its original gallery, and, after being replaced in 2006, was temporarily moved to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. It left there in 2010, making one wonder where the giant shark is now.

You could almost say Hirst jumped the shark. Naaaah...let's not. He probably still has a few ideas left.

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