My pop-up life, by the Picasso of pickle

Seedy 3-D? Damien Hirst's book reveals all. By Sophie Walker
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The Independent Online
You were surprised by the shark. You were shocked by the sheep. You were carried away by the half cow. Now read the book.

Damien Hirst, wild man artist extraordinaire, presents his latest venture in September - a pop-up autobiography complete with posters, pull-outs and novelty inserts representing his best-known work.

I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now is a turbulent, three-dimensional and often blood-splattered retrospective of his art to date. The ultimate Nineties coffee table book, it bids fair to be the Christmas present for the chattering classes this year. It's not cheap at pounds 59.95, but it's considerably cheaper than Hirst's other installation art, which sells for as much as pounds 80,000.

The cover is deceptively calm. The dustjacket illustration is of an empty cream-coloured room with the periodic table of elements imposed over it as a blue grid. But look closely. The room is an operating theatre, and inside, the calm gives way to violent charnel-house scenes floating above text which reads: "I don't know how I'd deal with sexuality. It always turns into murder for some reason."

Over the page the gore alternates with portraits of blank-eyed children and tiny sheep in formaldehyde tanks which fill up with black ink when you pull a tab. The book also features smaller versions of Hirst's spin- paintings and spot paintings which allow readers, pulling another tab, to create an original work of their own.

On another page a shark disappears from a vast empty tank when you lift the flap.

There are more surprises, but Edward Booth-Clibborn, the publisher, is trying to keep mum about the other special features in the book, and the two copies in circulation to a favoured few are jealously guarded.

The book has already run into trouble in China, where the pop-ups were assembled, when the authorities objected to naked photographs of Hirst and his girlfriend and published them with black strips over breasts and genitals. Those buying the book in the UK, US and Australia will find an additional sheet of stickers, allowing them to restore the portraits.

I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life is named after one of Hirst's works which featured a ping-pong ball suspended on a jet of air. The book also includes an essay by novelist Gordon Burn, author of controversial books about the Moors Murderers and the Yorkshire Ripper, which looks at Hirst's work and its impact.

"The book is enormously domineering and impressive - the size and the scale are extraordinary," Mr Booth-Clibborn said. "It could have been a pounds 500 special edition, but I want to make it available.

"Damien is one of the most inventive minds in terms of art-form that we've had for some time. He's a very original thinker and I think this gives an enormous dimension to his work."

Jonathan Barnbrook, who devised and designed the book in collaboration with Hirst, put it another way: "He's a pop star, a new kind of artist. Most people on the street have heard of him and there's not many 20th century artists who have managed that. We're trying to draw these people to his book, by reproducing his work in two dimensions and making it physical and accessible."

Hirst studied at Goldsmith's College, London, in the 1990s. His early work featured maggots, ping pong balls and surgical instruments but it was not until his 1994 installation, "Away from the Flock", began to attract attention at the Serpentine Gallery that Hirst came to the forefront of young British artists.

The work, which featured a dead sheep suspended in formaldehyde, attracted even more interest when it was vandalised by a visitor to the gallery who poured black ink over it.

In 1995, Hirst won the Turner Prize for his piece "Mother and Child Divided", a cow and calf bisected and pickled in formaldehyde. Hirst said: "It's amazing what you can do with an art A-level, a chainsaw and a warped imagination."

The publishers have ordered a print run of 14,000 copies and will launch the book on 9 September.