Damien Hirst – For the love of God

Exhibition by Maren Serine
Profile — October 16th, 2015
Exhibition by Maren Serine — 4 years ago

The Making of The Diamond Skull. Published by Other Criteria/White Cube.

Living legend and art rebel, Damien Hirst, first saw the light of day in Bristol, Great Britain, mid 1960’s. Like many others do, mon Dieu adores the southwestern Brit’s great aesthetic skills: A unique artistry that with utter precision beautifully communicate deeply philosophical reflections using elements like surgical instruments, formaldehyde solution, animal corpses cut in half and other peculiar stuff that few of us have ever laid eyes on. In addition to our admiration and great respect for Hirst’s art pieces, we also see him as an important inspiration in other ways;

Damien Hirst has been building his career since the end of the 1980’s when it all seriously took off for him being part of a loose group of British artists. These young unknowns began to exhibit together in the label Young British Artists (YBAs). In 1988, while studying at Goldsmiths College of Art, Hirst organized the first and most celebrated of their exhibitions, «Freeze». British art culture has since then been shaped by the highly influential YBAs that reached fame because of their wild living, openness to materials and processes, shock tactics and entrepreneurial attitude. The YBAs revitalized the British Art Scene, gave lift to new artists and catalyzed a whole new generation of contemporary commercial galleries, like the notorious White Cube Bermondsey. The movement lead to an enormous spread of interest and improved the market for contemporary British art magazines through increased advertising and circulation. The pioneering artist has also collaborated in the borderline between Art and Fashion, a move that many artists would never dare to make. Have a look further down in the story at the video from 2013 where Hirst has joined forces with clothing designer/couturier Alexander McQueen and photographer/film director Sølve Sundsbø (last one recently exhibited in Uncontaminated Oslo Fashion Art Festival).

«Fuck off to death»
-Damien Hirst

The Making of The Diamond Skull. Published by Other Criteria/White Cube.

The mother of artist Damien Hirst once asked her son, «For the love of God, what are you going to do next?» Little did she know that these words would end up as the title of nothing less than an art treasure and a “Memento mori” clarifying death. Together with craftsmen from Bentley & Skinner, suppliers of jewelry to the British Royal Family, the ambitious artist succeeded to materialize the mad idea of creating a stunning platinum replica of a real human skull. The masterpiece is of course covered with the best quality diamonds, and the cherry on top of the cream is a detail resembling a third eye; an extravagant, pear-shaped pink diamond in the center of the forehead – a quite fascinating contrast to the pale human teeth from the original skull that are curved in a strange, cold grin.

I once was
What you are
You will be
What I am

-Hirst’s sketches

Sketch notes like «Diamonds are for ever» and «In God we trust, yeah, yeah, yeah» reflect an indication of Damien Hirst’s philosophical thoughts concerning our human existence. As art has the power to transform something into something else, the artist decided to create a decoration against death.The grinning face that for a brief moment outshined our dark thoughts of human mortality has now reached halfway through its Oslo residency. It’s the first time ever that the diamond skull is exhibited in Scandinavia and kind of a big deal for Astrup Fearnley Museet. Just how important the exhibition is we found out the night of the opening when the artist himself had decided to show up for the vernissage. We were also quite starstruck to meet a superstar in the world of Art.

His seminal paintings made of flies and butterflies are some of the art pieces that a month ago were complemented by the impressive piece of jewelry. For a limited amount of time, For the Love of God 2007, is on show in a purpose-built room within the walls of Astrup Fearnley Museet. The light design inside the black box that illuminates the skull from four angles provides a quite striking effect that might make you realize the high optical dispersion of diamonds.

The skull’s background story is relatively obscure, but what has scientifically been proved is the identity of a young adult male from southern Europe with good health while alive, during the creation process. The story behind this young man’s doom will probably stay secret forever, an unsolvable mystery that our own imaginations may speculate upon. As the skull gradually is placed within with vague fragments of a historical context aiming towards the short life of a real person, the grin suddenly seems to become a smirk. Also the dark gap of a missing tooth gets far more fascinating than it was at first glance.

The Making of The Diamond Skull. Published by Other Criteria/White Cube.

As one of the most influential artists of his generation, Hirst’s art was introduced to the Norwegian Art Scene in 1996 and has ever since had a central part in Astrup Fearnley Museet. Thirteen art pieces complete the permanent collection of Hirst’s work that resides beneath the sail shaped museum roof.


If you want to, there is still time to get face to face with the diamond scull. As the artist puts it himself; «We’re born, we look around, we die».


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