Damien Hirst

Whilst Bust of the Collector is a mature work, With Dead Head is a piece from Damien Hirst’s youth. Both, however, are rare self-portraits of the artist. The 1991 photograph was taken when Hirst, then aged 16, was working in a morgue, and it shows him smiling broadly next to a decapitated head. A scene which could have been morbid and obscene becomes an ode to life, echoing Charles Baudelaire’s description in The Death of the Poor: ‘It is Death which consoles men, alas, and keeps them alive. Death is the aim of life; it is the only hope which, like an elixir, raises our spirits and intoxicates us, and gives us the heart to march until evening’. With Bust of the Collector, the register seems to have radically changed in order to blend in with the tale of the Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable exhibition, held in Venice in 2017: indeed, it was one of the exhibition’s more emblematic works.