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Damien Hirst's Shark

Damien Hirst's Shark
Saatchi Gallery advert. © Saatchi Gallery

Contemporary art in England has a habit of attracting controversy - and Damien Hirst’s Shark, revealed to the world at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 1992, attracted plenty.

The 14-foot tiger shark, preserved in formaldehyde, presented in a glass tank and titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, led to howls of protest about whether something so simple could be seen as art at all.

Commonly referred to as The Shark, the piece expressed Hirst’s obsession with mortality and its effects were far-reaching. It didn’t just catapult Hirst into art superstardom, it also marked the birth of a generation of YBAs or Young British Artists who went on to take the international art world and art markets by storm.

The Shark still has the power to make headlines. Reportedly bought by Charles Saatchi for £50,000, it was sold to an American, Steven Cohen, in January 2005 for almost £7m. While Shark’s creator may have become part of the art establishment, he can still cause consternation in the art world. A sale of new works on September 15 2008 at Sotheby’s (which included another shark piece) netted him personally many millions.

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