Bling on the Blog, Part 1: Lord of the Bling

Once its inhabitants have vacated the space, a skull becomes a multi-functional object. From Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to museum curators in Cambodia’s Killing Fields, individuals have put the empty shell of human life to decorative use. Former BritArt brat packer, Damien Hirst, follows in this illustrious tradition with his latest work, a platinum cast human skull studded with 8,601 diamonds. In the same way that traffic around an accident will slow to a snail’s pace due to individuals’ tacit desire to witness tragedy and even death, Hirst’s work is frightening and fascinating, repulsive and attractive.

The sight of the diamond-studded cranium, entitled For the Love of God, inspires more than primal fears and fascination of death. It also taps into our own sense of self-importance, lending credence to the belief that a skull acts as a representation of human identity. A world away from genocide memorials, some of which in Rwanda include rows and rows of anonymous skulls with visible machete blows or head scarves still wrapped around them, Hirst’s skull basks in its individuality, radiant in its platinum casting and diamond adornment. More than an elegy to the 18th century man who once inhabited the shape that is now dotted with diamonds, this piece is a celebration of the value of individual life.

It evokes the visceral reaction of a mother looking at her child for the first time, casting an eye on all the terrifying potential and magnitude of a life that has yet to be lived. It is beautiful. I am frightened by it. I want to see it shine. The empty and evocative vestige of who we once may have been, a skull offers no hints to the untrained eye of what was once thought and tasted, heard and said within the now vacant borders of bone and gap, white and black, cavernous shadow framed by the fragile shell that once held together life.

The skull is an empty canvas of potential framed by the unknown confines of a life already lived. Hirst chose to paint an image of beauty and radiant splendor, simultaneously conjuring that which is impermanent and that which is eternal about a human life. This work could be seen as a triumph of capitalism. The artist has become so enormously wealthy that he funded the project himself and claims to not know where on the spectrum of twenty to thirty million dollars the cost of his creation lies. It could also be seen as a triumph of vision, illustrating the true value we place on those we love and the priceless quality of one human life.


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~ by terrificwhistlers on June 10, 2007.

4 Responses to “Bling on the Blog, Part 1: Lord of the Bling”

  1. I look at this art and I think, “Blood Diamond,” and all the horror behind the beauty. Interesting dichotomy.

  2. The artist claims that all 8,000 of his diamonds are “conflict free.” I don’t know how true that is but that’s what he says.

  3. What gets to me is the normal-looking teeth in the middle of the jewelry.

    I wonder if anyone will make a cheap knock-off of the design. I bet there’d be a market for them.

  4. Those are the real teeth from the skull that he made the cast from. And some people say that Hirst’s design is actually a rip-off from pre-existing cheap jewelry so perhaps there’s a vicious cycle going on there.

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