Hirst’s Shark Swap

Damien Hirst’s now famous embalmed shark, entitled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991), has now become the center of attention for an entirely new reason.

The steady decay of the shark, which was not properly embalmed, has prompted Hirst to completely replace the fourteen foot Tiger shark with a new specimen. As Pernilla Holmes discusses in her article “Meet the New Shark”, this replacement has raised questions about whether or not the piece should still be considered the same work. Some argue that since it is a conceptual work the physical components are unimportant. Others say that regardless of the concept remaining unchanged, once the work is physically altered it cannot legitimately be considered the same piece.

With the replacement of the shark came similar concerns about the replacement of Hirst’s other preserved animal pieces. Hirst has issued a statement saying that he will help to refurbish any of his pieces over ten years old. This however raises the new question of what should be done with the pieces once the artist is no longer available to refurbish them, and whether regardless of current preservation attempts the pieces will nevertheless be doomed to rot.


ARTnews vol. 106 no. 9 October 2007


written by Pernilla Holmes

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