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Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God diamond skull stands amidst the genres of art, history and religion as an unprecedented totem of conspicuous death. Petrified into their settings, do the diamonds attempt to pay indulgences to God, as the title and lavish exterior suggest? Or is its creation a memento mori reminding us of the evanescence of human life? Does the skull defy or submit to death? Whilst apparently ambivalent for many viewers of the skull, whose experience is defined by awe, the artist’s own words clarify his intention as wanting ‘to celebrate life by saying to hell with death.’
Influenced by a Mexican skull encrusted in turquoise and found in the British Museum, with the exception of the original teeth of the platinum cast human skull, the entire piece is encrusted with 8601 flawless pavé-set diamonds. The skull, which was purchased from a London taxidermy shop, has been forensically analysed to show that it once belonged to a 30-year old European male who lived some time between 1720 and 1810. All diamonds were ethically sourced for the work.
Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965. He first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and that of his contemporaries at Goldsmiths college, staged in a disused London warehouse. Since this time Hirst has become widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation.
Through a varied practise of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing Hirst has sought to explore the complex relationship between art, life and death. Alongside over 80 solo exhibitions he has worked on numerous curatorial projects. In 2008, Hirst took the unprecedented step of bypassing gallery involvement in selling 244 new works at a Sotheby’s, London auction entitled ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’.
Hirst was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995 and his contribution to British art over the last two and a half decades has been acknowledged in a major solo retrospective exhibited at Tate Modern, London. He lives in Devon and has studios in Gloucester and London.
Text © Damien Hirst & Science Ltd., All rights reserved, 2012