Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Damien Hirst's Latest

When I first read about it I thought it was a banal idea- a skull encrusted in diamonds? Yeah right- sounds like the sort of thing they sell in new age gift shops. But now  that I've seen it (or rather, seen pictures of it) I've changed my mind. 

Because firstly it's such an amazing object- an amazing piece of craftwork- immaculate, every millimetre of surface- including the insides of the eye sockets- covered with flawless gems.  Roll over Faberge.

And because secondly (as Damien himself says) it's just so bonkers- a completely useless object that cost £14 million (or was it £40 million?) to make. It wouldn't be the same if those diamonds were paste- even if they sparkled as bright. It's the apotheosis of art for art's sake, completely gratuitous and therefore heroic.

And because thirdly it's not just a jewel, not just a stunt. And here's the biggest surprise of all: I didn't think I'd be moved by it but I was. You know you're in the presence of something special when you find your preconceptions tumbling. I was expecting something grim and gaudy and it isn't.  It's lovely, chaste, comical.  Skulls smile (they can't help it) and usually this is construed as sinister. But not here. This is one happy skull. It's luminous. It beams at us like Micky Mouse. 

Diamonds are forever in one way and death is forever in another way and this conjunction of the two eternities is doing things to my brain which I'm having difficulty putting into words. Damien talks about  defeating death and, yes, that's a big part of it. He's a religious artist- a catholic artist- and this is his attempt at a Resurrection. He's made an image of death which- because of its materials- platinum and diamonds- has the potential to last as long as the earth does. This death's head is a time capsule we're launching into the future- into the far far future. 

I don't always like what Damien does. He's an ideas man and sometimes the ideas are gauche, simplistic, boring. But every once in a while he comes up with something astonishing- the pickled shark, the bisected cow.  And now this.
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