For the love of God29th March 2011
I recently had the opportunity to see Damien Hirst’s 2007 piece ‘For the love of God’ in exhibition. I’m not a great fan of modern art (well, anything post Picasso anyway – I abhor badly made beds for instance), but I decided to make an effort and give the old animal embalmer a chance. ‘For the love of God, what are you going to do next?’ is a quote Mr. Hirst attributes to his mother who was obviously exasperated at his antics and aptly describes the sheer audacity of the piece. The work began it’s life as the skull of a European (circa 1760) purchased from a shop in Islington. This Hirst had cast in platinum and then embedded with 8,601 diamonds. The phenomenal cost of the piece (some £14 million) and it’s ascribed market value of £50 million only detract from the work (although Hirst would argue that value is conceptually as important as the work itself).
This skull needs to be seen in the flesh (so to speak) as photographs simply don’t do it justice. Every subtle nuance in the form of the skull remains, and this strongly reinforces the peculiar juxtaposition of mortality and near indestructible beauty. A cluster of Tsarist gems at the centre of the forehead give it an unavoidable sense of commodity, whilst the the only original parts – the teeth – remind you that this was once a human.
For me, Hirst has achieved something I thought wasn’t possible, he has created a cultural Icon that is impenetrable beyond our civilisation, readable only as some kind of dramatic religious artefact without the cultural references we have that would dissolve with time, but speaks directly to us today with themes that work on many levels.
This is modern art that truly speaks both of antiquity and modernity and is directly accessible to the man in the street whilst still being a central pillar of the self-analyzing cathedral of modern art. See it if you can.