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Damien Hirst says criticism is 'to be expected'


Controversial artist Damien Hirst says he expects his work to be criticised and that he does not let it affect him.

"You've got to ignore it," he told the BBC's Will Gompertz. "I've had negative reactions all through my career.

"I try not to take the nice things that people say seriously," he continued. "Then you can avoid the bad things."

The 46-year-old was speaking ahead of a retrospective at Tate Modern in London featuring highlights from his phenomenally successful career.

image captionDamien Hirst said his first UK retrospective was "not bad for 25 years' work"

The exhibition features such works as his diamond skull, titled For The Love Of God, and the infamous shark pickled in formaldehyde, also known as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

The retrospective, Hirst's first in the UK, opens to the public on Wednesday as part of the London 2012 Festival.

It launches amid accusations from Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and others that he is more concerned with money than art.

Last month, art critic Julian Spalding suggested Hirst's pieces had "no artistic content" and would soon be "worthless financially".

The artist - one of the "YBAs" or Young British Artists to come to prominence in the late 1980s - has also faced criticism for using assistants to complete or realise his work.


David Hockney made comments in January which were assumed to be a criticism of Hirst's "production line" technique, although he later issued a statement stating he had not meant to "imply criticism of another artist's working practices".

Speaking to the BBC, Hirst admitted that selling his work was important but rejected suggestions he was "a money-grabbing show-off".

"As an artist, all I do is make an object for a single person to have a reaction to," he said.

"Hopefully you make something that will excite people - things they won't forget, that will wake up parts of their brain."

The Tate's highly anticipated show spans more than 20 years of Hirst's career at the forefront of conceptual art.

Works on show include A Thousand Years, in which flies and maggots feed on a cow's severed head, and In And Out Of Love, an installation comprising a room of live butterflies.

The artist said he felt "comfortable" with the notion of a retrospective, despite having resisted the idea in the past.

"Looking back is something I've avoided for quite a while," he said. "I like looking forward because the possibilities are infinite.

"When you look back it's all fixed so it's quite a weird thing to do. But once I decided to do it I've quite enjoyed it really."

Hirst said he was "in negotiations" with the Tate over donating some of its works after the exhibition closes in September.

More on this story

  • In Pictures: Hirst retrospective