Last week, billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen offered visitors of New York’s Metropolitan Museum the opportunity to behold one of the prized pieces of his collection: a 13-foot tiger shark suspended in a glass case full of formaldehyde. Titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” by British artist Damien Hirst, creator of the renowned $100 million skull piece (“For the Love of God“).
The tiger shark work nearly perished within a year of its purchase by Cohen. Sold in 2005 for a reported $8 million (though other sources say 12), the work required a transplant in October 2006. A team of six carefully removed the original 14-foot shark, whose decay could not be stopped due to an improper formaldehyde treatment upon the work’s inception. They replaced it with a new shark, injecting it with more than 200 needles of formaldehyde to properly preserve the large cartilaginous fish and effectively prevent the natural forces of entropy.
First purchased by London collector Charles Saatchi in 1992 for a reported $93,000, the original shark was caught and killed by Hirst’s request off the coast of Australia in 1991. Its inclusion at the Met affords visitors the chance to view the work of a contemporary artist, who at the age of 42, now commands the highest prices of any living artist.