Immediately recognised for his brilliant, sordid and uncompromising imagination, Damien Hirst is the most celebrated artist Britain has produced for generations. The undisputed leader and originator of the dominant movement in contemporary art on both sides of the Atlantic, he is now so ingrained in the public consciousness that even people with only a passing interest in art are familiar with his notorious shark and pickled sheep. What few people outside his immediate circle know are his brilliance as a talker, and the incisiveness and uniquely skewed nature of his mind. Gordon Burn met Hirst for the first time nine years ago. They both admired David Sylvester's interviews with Francis Bacon and Jan Wenner's interviews with John Lennon, and there was always an unspoken understanding between them that they would do something similar when the time was right. The resulting conversations in Gambler are electrifyingly candid. True to the undertaking Hirst gave Burn, there is no off-limits: here are Hirst's thoughts on celebrity, money, art, alcohol, sex, death, the North of England, class, crime and cocaine; his views on Charles Saatchi, David Bowie, David Hockney, Salman Rushdie, Jarvis Cocker, Gilbert and George and Lucian Freud. More than any other individual, Damien Hirst's art and life came to define the nineties. Like the generation he has become the spokesman for, Gambler is brave, unpredictable, scabrously funny and corrosively intelligent. It is also a how-to guide to becoming the most famous artist in the world.
Faber and Faber
Publisher and industry reviews
'I want it to be revealing. I'll talk about anything you like. I want it to be truthful. Let's do it. There is no off-limits. I'm afraid of nothing.'
UK Kirkus review
So you really want to know about Damien Hirst, the 'ringleader and alpha talent of the most startling artistic developments in Britain for half a century'? Here's a book of 12 frank, free, F-word-rich taped interviews of Hirst by his friend Gordon Burn, liberally illustrated, which date from 1992 to 2000. But first you'll have to struggle to read it: Burn's pre-interview comments are photocopied paste-up strips, unevenly placed, the interviews themselves are in very small print on grey paper and there are typographic shocks and scrawls throughout. All this is no mere gimmick, however. Damien Hirst may express himself in the most anti-intellectual in-your-face way, but he is deadly serious about art. 'Great art is when you come across an object and you have a fundamental, personal, one-to-one relationship with it, and you understand something you didn't already understand about what it means to be alive.' For him the greatest artist of recent years is Francis Bacon. Hirst has had to deal with fame, money, the art-means-business world, and with becoming 'Damien Hirst', living as he says, in the firing line. His fight against hypocritical and phoney elements in art, artists, the media and the business world is unrelenting and often admirable. The fragility of existence and the action of the world on things were Hirst's great concerns from the beginning. His placing of objects in formaldehyde and big steel and glass cases is to hold off inevitable decay and corruption. The direction of his work has always been towards death. Hirst's Shark for Young British Artists 1 (YBA1) at the Saatchi Gallery in 1992, which was called 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (his titles are vital to his work) marked him out for instant notoriety. He has been pilloried for the brutality of some of his installations but comments: 'I make violent artworks. I think violently, I communicate violently. I'm not violent. I'm an artist. I really use violence as a way to communicate.' A great plus of this book is the many illustrations of Hirst's work, sometimes mentioned in the text, sometimes not. There are also some startling personal album photographs. It is a pity that - in keeping with the 'spontaneous' nature of the format and interviews - there is nothing as scholarly as an index, which would have been helpful, as there is much here that is revealing and valuable. Perhaps the book is designed rather as a 'freedom' experience in keeping with Hirst's idea that 'genius means that everybody isn't an artist. Freedom means that everybody is an artist... I think artists are normal people who have managed to harness somehow what is important for everybody.' (Kirkus UK)
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