In 2008, Hirst completed the two ‘Natural History’ works ‘Death Explained’ and ‘Death Denied’. ‘Death Explained’ is a mature tiger shark bisected longitudinally and contained within two steel and glass tanks of formaldehyde solution. ‘Death Denied’ consists of a similarly sized complete shark positioned in an identical tank. Together, the pieces make up a pair of works Hirst named: ‘Coming to Terms With and Trying to Understand the Complexity of the Feelings and Ever-Changing Fears and Doubts that Every Human Being Experiences when Faced Every Moment with the Unfathomable Uncertainties of Death’.
Hirst initially sketched out plans for ‘Death Explained’ in 1991, the same year he produced his first iconic shark piece, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. Whilst the titles of the two later sculptures build upon Hirst’s exploration of the difficulties for human beings of attempting to comprehend the idea of death, the works themselves respond to the iconography and mythical status of the first shark work.
The two sculptures were shown together as an installation during ‘Requiem’, Hirst’s major exhibition at the Pinchuk Art Centre in 2009, after the inclusion of ‘Death Explained’ in the 2007 White Cube exhibition of new works, ‘Beyond Belief’.