Drinking partners make an exhibition of themselves

Their friendship was formed as they stood facing each other, hammers in hand, hanging up their respective works of art in a shared gallery space two decades ago.

The unlikely bond between Damien Hirst, Britain's highest-earning living artist, and Michael Joo, his lesser-known American-Korean counterpart – who at first may appear to have little in common – has blossomed over the years. The pair share a love of 1970s punk rock, friendly competition on the pool table, and a predilection for "cutting things up" – including sharks and cows, on Hirst's part.

Now, they have made the step from drinking partners to professional equals as they have opened their first joint exhibition together, Have You Ever Really Looked at the Sun?, which is on show at the Haunch of Venison gallery in Berlin until 14 August.

The pair's friendship began in 1991 as they prepared their booths at the Unfair exhibition in Cologne, Germany. Hirst has helped Joo with his career before, including him in the exhibition Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away at London's Serpentine Gallery in 1994, which first brought the Korean's work to international attention.

By then, Hirst was already one of the most powerful artists in Britain, standing at the vanguard of the Young British Artists movement and commanding massive sums for a single work of his art.

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Joo, who has since had numerous solo shows and has seen his profile rise accordingly, said he and Hirst both shared "a lot of common interests".

"I grew up in a blue-collar environment, which was rural, but it was also a very working-class neighbourhood, like Damien Hirst's [in Leeds]," he said. "Many things added to the stew, but there was something in our upbringing, and art comes from life."

The two artists are planning a show based around their shared fascination of the natural world, which was reflected in a recent exhibition in Berlin in which both displayed their works – including Hirst's fly-infested installation Let's Eat Outdoors Today (which was reanimated with freshly hatched flies imported from Britain) and Joo's reconstructed oak and stainless steel trunk.

A second-generation Korean-American, Michael Joo was born in 1966 in Ithaca, New York, a year after Hirst was born in Bristol. Unlike Hirst, who found his vocation early and rose to fame while still a student at Goldsmiths in London, Joo studied biology at Wesleyan University and worked for a seed science company before turning to sculpture in 1989.

Joo has had 14 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world and has also been shown at White Cube gallery in London, which has represented Hirst for years. Joo also represented South Korea in the 2001 Venice Biennale.

Since Hirst's endorsement of his work at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994, he has become a leading contemporary conceptual artist who frequently uses animal forms in his work, from moose antlers to zebra skin.

Joo conceded that his work shared similarities with Hirst's, but added that there was always an "ongoing dialogue" between artists of the same generation, with "one artist riffing off another".

Referring to Hirst's most famous installations, which feature sharks, sheep and cows cut in half and immersed in formaldehyde, Joo added: "Like Damien, I like to look more deeply into things and see what it's all about. I want to look at the core, but as with the title of the show, you can never really look at the core. You can feel the heat, look at the light, but you can't look at the Sun."

Hirst reportedly said he shared many points of professional interest with Joo: "We're both interested in science. Nature. Minimalism. Love. Jesus. Though the jury's still out on God... for me."

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power