Replacing a Dead Shark

I know I’ve been accused of mentioning Damien Hirst too much, and his work doesn’t please everyone, but he keeps making the news and a lot of it is worth mentioning. He brings up issues that should be talked about.

Perhaps his most famous work (The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living) will soon be replaced with a new dead shark. The work was made in 1991 and is already falling apart, the liquid is murky, and the shark has changed shape.
The American hedge fund manager Steve Cohen paid about 6.5 million pounds for the Hirst work in 2004 and is now in discussions with Damien Hirst to have the shark completely replaced.

The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone livingIt makes one think about contemporary art differently. Does it really matter if the shark is replaced? Will it become just a copy of the original? What about the Wrath of God?

Damien Hirst in talks to replace rotting shark
Speaking to The Art Newspaper, the dealer Larry Gagosian said: “The shark is a conceptual piece and to substitute a shark of equal size and appearance, in my opinion, does not alter the piece. Steve Cohen is very happy with the piece and is not troubled at all with having to substitute it. It’s not a direct analogy but if you have a work by Dan Flavin and one of the lights goes out and you substitute it, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect the significance of the piece, or the value of the piece.” ArtNewspaper

See a larger image of The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living by Damien Hirst.
>> Art Collecting, Damien Hirst, Controversies

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Does it matter who catches the shark or who builds the tank? Does it matter who puts the shark in the tank or who pours in the liquid? Does it matter who changes the light bulb or how many watts it is? If Mr Cohen employs a competent tank builder, buys a decent shark and some formeldehide he could put it all togeter for a lot less than 6.5 million. I’m about to contact the people who produce the painting by numbers kits with the idea of selling my new Conceptual Art by Numbers sets. I’ve so far developed a box of lego bricks to be set out in a pile in the corner of a room (this is a starter/beginners piece) and a shoe box with a couple of small torches to be put inside. For the really advanced there will be the used knickers , sheet and duvet along with the other debris to create a “Tracy Bed”. My main challenge is going to be keeping up with the supply of raw materials for this last one so ladies watch out for your washing lines! (Please note the above idea is subject to copyright so please do not leave your own bed unmade or try putting a torch in a shoe box. Make sure you put your lego away and no Pickling Fish)

  2. You might be on to something there Earl. I might run with your way of thinking and start selling toilets with my signature on them.

    It won’t be my actual signature as I will pay an assistant to do it, or just get it stamped on by the manufacturers.

  3. Toilets have real potential. A series of used ones would be a nice exhibition. Visitors could be induced to participate in an ever changing display allowing a predominantly visual piece of art(but with added sensurary delights of sound and smell) to explore the human concepts of shame and embarrassment that dominate our digestive processes and play such a major part of our daily lives. Toilets are what makes us human. Just need to flush out a six figure grant or sponsorship deal.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Makes me wonder if I should be urinating on the toilets at the museum or stealing them!?

  5. Anonymous says:

    art forums and groups are growing in the london region more than ever. artist spaces are to expensive a growing trend compared to berin, local groups using the intenet are drawing talent and skill togther as artist such as Shem Booth (medialab uk/e7arts) show that the yba (young british artist, mutated into somthing quite unexpecteed. the neature of the internet is allowing groups to gather faster membership, draw more creative ideas and share data without paying fee.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Has anybody out there thought about the morals of purposely killing a beautiful creature for art?
    What right has Mr Hirst to do this?
    Its not contemporary or reflective of modernity and is steeped in macho, power based, old fashioned, anochronistic ideas. The same goes for the rest of his animal/creature art pieces.
    Hirst may be a clever self publicist and rich monetarily but he is poor morally and ethically.
    Children naturally are filled witrh awe about Earth’s creatures, I wonder how he explains his organising and sanctioning of killing creatures great and small to his children…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think Hirst ever killed one of these animals…it wouldn’t be allowed, period. duh

  8. I think it actually costs less to buy a real shark, install a real tank, and REALLY feel the emotion that Hirst was TRYING to convey with this piece. As “clever” as it is, no idea is worth 6.5 million dollars, nope, not even the one for the silicon microchip. Work in IT for one day and you’ll realize computers complicate just as much as they simplify, and artists bullshit about the worth of a concept more than they actually think of them. Remember Duchamp? signed his pseudonym R.Mutt on an overturned Urinal? is this any different?


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