by Alison Flood)
Despite rumours that the early 1990s remain a little hazy, Damien Hirst has signed a deal with Penguin to release his autobiography, with the publisher promising that the notorious artist will speak with "utter candour" about his life.
Calling Hirst "the most successful artist in the world: an iconoclast, innovator, and the art world's most notorious rebel", Viking Penguin announced the deal this morning. The book will be co-written with James Fox, who also worked with Keith Richards on the Rolling Stone's 2010 memoir Life, and will be published next autumn.
It will, said Penguin, cover Hirst's childhood in Leeds and his time at Goldsmiths College in London, where he curated the famous 1988 student show Freeze which gave rise to the YBA – Young British Artists – movement, as well as his Turner prize win in 1995 for Mother and Child, Divided , one of his many works fixated on death. The piece consists of four glass tanks, containing the two halves of a cow and calf preserved in formaldehyde, and would be followed by his famous shark in formaldehyde known as Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which was shown at the Royal Academy of Art's 1997 exhibition, Sensation.
Hirst said in the announcement from Penguin this morning that he was "really pleased" to be working with the publisher on his autobiography. "They are a very cool and creative publisher with a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm. They care about all their readers from top to bottom and are not afraid of pushing the boundaries," said the artist.
Fox said the book promises to be "a fascinating story, as told with Hirst's witty style and northern edge". "As well as the well-known arc of the boy from Leeds who took on the art establishment, it will include a barely known first act – a black and hilarious account of Hirst's youth, growing up in a semi-criminal, often violent milieu, while sharing with his friends an unlikely, but binding passion for art," said the author, who also wrote the acclaimed White Mischief.
"He (Hirst) grew up in a pretty bad situation with his mother, and he and his gang – many of whom became YBA artists – spent half their time housebreaking, stealing, [indulging in] criminality, and the rest of their time indulging their passion for art, which started very early on in their years," Fox told the Today programme.
"I found that completely fascinating, moving, the idea of a saving connection to art. The fearlessness of Damien, his ability to take on authority, to never say anything can't be done, to break all the rules. That very much comes from that background."
In 2008, Hirst broke the record for a single-artist auction, with an entire collection of new work sold for £111m at auction at Sotheby's. A retrospective of his work in 2012 at Tate Modern was the most visited solo show in the museum's history, said Penguin.
Venetia Butterfield, who acquired the memoir for Penguin, called Hirst "a highly significant cultural figure" and said that the release of the book would be "a momentous publishing event". Its US publisher Scott Moyers at Penguin in the US said that Hirst's "utter candour about his life" was "as exhilarating as his deep insight into his art".