Friday, July 06, 2007

Diamonds are a ghoul's best friend

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’ pavĂ©-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 London flats. I started to think about other grand artistic gestures. If Christo and Jeanne-Claude for example were ever to consider recreating their famous Valley Curtain in the most expensive shoes ever made to date, (just an idea) – that would be the Manolo Blahnik alligator boot at US$14,000 – over the 400m span of their original Colorado Rocky Mountain site, the raw materials cost would still only come in at $US28million. Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Could they guarantee that all 2,000 pairs of those Manolo Blahnik’s would be ethically sourced? I emphasise that this is just speculation on my part and no reflection on the moral character of Blahnik or Christo or Jeanne-Claude.

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.


R.H. said...

Sorry, I don't understand most of this, but what good is that skull thing? I'd trade it for something alive. Any day.

Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks for a great post, Noosa.
It is certainly thought provoking, this exhibit. I was reflecting on the hardness of the diamond, the softness of the skull, and, yes, the inextricable permeation of these two disparate elements and riffed away to myself on the incredible energy that forges a diamond (forever, a girl's best, etc)and the paltry decaying stuff of us, the humans.......
I'll stop now.

That's so pants said...


You won't like Damien's other stuff then - he mostly does dead things.


Yep - that's about the yin and yang of it.



Bwca said...

The teeth on SparkleBonce look like those of Jagger, Sir M.,

and that makes me think that any dentist could afford to buy it - had any dental care lately anyone? Kings Ransom.

But TSP wins for this:
"I bet Lullaby Spring didn’t come wrapped in a fully functional flat!"

Liz said...

Hi Ms Pants,

Another fascinating post. Earlier this week, I read a piece by Clive James on the BBC news magagzine pages about the diamond encrusted skull. It was a witty and informative piece of writing, but still not as good as yours.

That's so pants said...

Hi bwca, Hi Liz

Thank you both. Your individual cheques are in the post.



Reading the Signs said...

Hi Pants - I saw this geezer in the newspaper the other day. Leaving aside whether it touches me at the level of artistic sensibility (and I can't help remembering the Ab Fab episode where Joanna Lumley says, "I know it's a stiff darling, but is it art?") what does it mean to say that an objet like that is worth however many millions? I know it must have cost a tidy sum to produce as it's made of all those diamonds. And then the gallery names the price, I guess. It's pretty ghastly really, isn't it? Which is what makes it so perfect, I suppose. D.H. Lawrence would have hated it - the absolute ultimate sex in the head. It's made of strong stuff though and may survive when everything else falls to say "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair."

Pants, it's good to see you around.

R.H. said...

And where's MY dough?

Never mind, I'll rent you a hovel when you get here.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

It's fun to think that in 3,000 years some successor civilization may come across this thing and think, 'this must have been the most important person on the planet', as if they were discovering Tutankhamen's tomb. Nice one Dame.


You don't get it do you? You have to GROVEL to be eligible for payola. You're in the red, big time.



Janejill said...

Looks like a perfect set of gnashers too - I made a mistake once and had a (very tiny ...) diamond put in a tooth - I thought it would be much prettier than an ugly filling; when the light hits it, it is sparkly; when it doesn't , it looks like a speck of food.. I like art which is also useful - perhaps one could put a lightbulb inside it?

That's so pants said...

Hi Jane Jill

I heard that the skull has applied for a job as Keith Richards's stand-in. If you put a light bulb in it though, that would no longer be possible.



R.H. said...

"Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well..."

Quink said...

Nice to see someone with a harder skull than mine. Personally, I blame my Scottish genes...

Ann O'Dyne said...

While we are mentioning Stones,
is anyone old enough to recall that Sir Mick had an emerald in a tooth one time? it was the Bianca year I think.
like poor JaneJill above, he realised it was not a good look
(he has obviously had it taken out).

A diamond on braces would look good though - or at least distracting.

That's so pants said...

Hi ann o'dyne and welcome. Great name by the way. I'm old enough, for sure, but I don't remember the emerald incident. I like the idea of diamond encrusted braces though.



blogsurfer said...

Nice artwork. I'm sure it's very expensive. I had an updated list of most expensive art work here. You might want to look at them. Thank you.

Most Expensive Artwork

That's so pants said...

Hey Blogsurfer

No sand flies on you then!