It was my intention to publish this post yesterday for Elegantly Dressed Wednesday but I got caught up in Wimbledon, as one does at this time of year and spent most of the day as an art installation myself. I call it ‘couch potato’ and it is for sale on e-Bay. The highest bid at the moment is 13p so I don’t expect to be receiving a phone call from Charles Saatchi anytime soon. We can either pretend it’s still Wednesday or make an effort to extend elegance to Thursday – it’s up to you.
A couple of weeks ago Mr T and I booked places in a bleak corner of London’s White Cube Gallery - a mini black hole in a suspended universe behind one’s bustling Piccadilly if you will - and spent our allotted cinque minutes ordinairre staring starkly and star-struck at the most expensive piece of art ever made. I mean expensive in the sense that the cost of raw materials expended to create The Love of God by Damien Hirst exceeds by far that of any other. This is the singularly most heavily resourced bony-fide object d’art ever.
I have to tell you it is magnificent.
Shoot me. I deserve to be shot for admiring such a thing, but it is breathtakingly beautiful. Diamonds are magical even when you have only one modest one as I have. Mine is just about the same size as one of the 8,601 ‘ethically-sourced’ pavé-set stones encrusting this nineteenth century junk-shop skull. My little diamond is ethically-sourced too. I bought it in an antique market in Lewes.
The centrepiece of Hirst’s current show, Beyond Belief, For the Love of God, places us at the very cusp of beauty and ugliness. It’s sort of like looking in the mirror on a good hair day. On the blurb we received with our free ticket, it is described as a ‘Momento Mori – an object that addresses the transience of human existence’. Art critic Rudi Fuchs offers this insight,
It proclaims victory over decay. At the same time, it represents death as something infinitely more relentless. Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself.’
The statement reminds us that diamonds in this volume and context can’t help but dominate mortality – ethically-sourced or not. In many ways it is an art statement big enough to prompt thoughts about the meaning of life. Mr T and I made the mistake of having a very large mojito each directly after seeing the exhibition so talk of all things fleeting and regrettable was virtually inevitable.
It is strange to be in a darkened room with a dozen other people just inches away from something smaller than one’s head but worth the same as 200
As usual, I’ve strayed far from the topic. The rest of the exhibition is fun too. I like Damien Hirst. He’s more of an art industry than a single artist, and he employs a lot of other artists which is more than most people are willing to do because they tend to smell of linseed oil and wear paint-spattered shoes.
Hirst already holds the record for the most expensive work sold by a living artist. Last month an anonymous buyer paid US$19m for Lullaby Spring, a pill cabinet. I also sold a pill cabinet recently but I only got around US$500,000 for mine. I bet Lullaby Spring didn’t come wrapped in a fully functional flat!
For the Love of God is likely to achieve somewhere in the region of US$100m when eventually sold. Mooted as possible buyers are George Michael and Kenny Goss who already own an art collection worth around US$200m. They were recently given a private viewing and Goss was apparently beside himself with excitement when he told a rep, ‘I got to hold the skull!’ No wonder George spends so much time on Hampstead Heath. It’s nice to see there appears to be no lingering animosity between Hirst and the habitually disoriented pop icon. It is rumoured that George was interested in Lullaby Spring but was refused a private viewing as Hirst thought he might help himself. It’s Kenny who’s the expert. George apparently can’t distinguish between art and medication.
Will For the Love of God bring Hirst immortality? Probably. No one’s ever going to paint over this baby. The downside may be that the mists of time might erode his name and future generations may know him only as that diamond geezer. Will he mind? I think not…
For the Love of God by Damien Hirst is showing at the White Cube Gallery, Mason's Yard, London, W1 until 7th July. Entry is free but you have to book.