Damien Hirst grew up with quite impoverished background. He never knew his biological father, and his stepfather left the family when Hirst was twelve. He, being a working student in Leeds was marked by poor academic grades and a couple of arrest for shoplifting.
As a boy, he loves drawing. But he was rejected from the Art College in Leeds. He then moved to London and for 2 years, he worked as a laborer on construction sites. On his second try, finally he was admitted to Goldsmith’s School of Art at the University of London.
During Hirst’s school years, there was a recession in the Art World, and galleries weren’t taking on new talent.
In 1988, Hirst curated and organized an independent show of Goldsmiths student works in London’s desolate Docklands area. He scraped up the cash to rent out a vacant warehouse, curated the show, and printed up the programs. He made his first mark in the art world in an organizing role, as a curator, not an artist.
The art show called Freeze, and is legendary for launching the careers of a new generation of British conceptual artist. His own contribution to the show was unremarkable. It was an assemblage of cardboard boxes glued together and decorated with house paint. He was living in a public housing at the time, and couldn’t afford to actually produce some of the art he had design on his computer. Thanks to Freeze, however, he met an art dealer who was willing to front him $6,000 to execute his first substantial work.
Hirst didn’t pander and he did what he loved. He had always been fascinated by death and decay and he spent some time working part-time in a mortuary, where he sketched dead bodies. With $6,000 in hand, he produced A Thousand Years, a large glass case with the head of a slaughtered cow lying inside it. Also sealed inside the case was a colony of flies that bred maggots in the cow’s rotting flesh. Above the severed head was an electric bug zapper.