Damien Hirst unveils his jewels in the crown, a £50m diamond-studded skull
In a glittering career, this is perhaps his most audacious effort yet. And, thanks to the £50 million price tag, the most expensive too.
As Damien Hirst unveiled this diamond encrusted skull, titled For the Love of God, the art world was divided over its artistic merit.
The skull is covered with 8,601 flawless diamonds - three times the number on the crown the Queen wears on state occasions
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Some critics dismissed it as a publicity stunt from the man best known for pickling cows and sheep in the name of art.
Others insisted it provided a profound statement about death.
Propped behind reinforced glass in a darkened room in the White Cube gallery in East London, the skull is covered with 8,601 flawless diamonds - three times the number on the crown the Queen wears on state occasions.
Even the eye sockets and the holes for the nose have been filled with hundreds of jewels. A 52-carat pear-shaped stone is set into the forehead, surrounded by 14 diamonds.
Damien Hurst with diamond-studded skull
Hirst says For The Love Of God is 'a celebration against death'
The skull is a platinum replica of a human skull bought by Hirst two years ago in a London taxidermy shop.
The original is thought to be that of a 35-year-old man who lived in Europe during the 18th century. The teeth have been taken from the original, polished, and then reset in the cast.
Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, said: "All of Hirst's works are stunts – but this one is just a more expensive stunt. It's vacuous nonsense.
"It is not even made by Hirst. He comes up with the concept and he gets his technicians to do the rest.
"As a piece of workmanship it is very good, but it is just window dressing. As art it is extremely dull."
The work took 18 months to make and the diamonds, worth £12 million, were paid for by Hirst and the gallery.
Damien Hurst diamond skull
The multi-millionaire artist, 41, has already received several offers from collectors. But he dreams of seeing the skull on display among the ancient treasures at the British Museum.
"I hope it makes the people who see it feel good, that it's uplifting, that it takes your breath away," he said.
"It works much better than I imagined. I was slightly worried that we'd end up with an Ali G ring. You just want it to be flawless, like a diamond is a flawless.
"We wanted to put them everywhere. I wouldn't mind if it happened to my skull after my death.'