Saturday, June 02, 2007
Crown jewel or kitsch novelty? ... Hirst's skull.
Damien Hirst was worried his diamond-encrusted skull would look like a £50m disco ball ...and he was absolutely right!
Securing an interview with God himself would be easier than setting eyes on Damien Hirst's latest work, For The Love of God, never mind meeting its creator.
Hirst's new exhibition, Damien Hirst: Beyond Belief, opens today in both White Cube galleries in London. There are several floors of sheep and cows in tanks, a new shark thrillingly chopped up vertically rather than horizontally, doves, butterflies, and a surprisingly touching sequence of paintings based on Polaroids of the Caesarean delivery of his own son. There is also a sequence of vast canvasses splattered with hair, broken glass, scalpel blades, human teeth and diamond dust, seductively colourful yet all based on biopsies of such horrors as a cancer of the salivary gland or a prostate blood clot.
But all are eclipsed, and the show is meticulously constructed to ensure this, by the dazzle of the diamonds. Admission to the holy of holies will be by timed ticket only, and the worshippers will only be permitted to remain there for five minutes. Weekends are already booked out.
The Hoxton gallery will be the outer circle of hell, ringing with the howls of those lost beyond hope of redemption. The St James's gallery will merely be purgatory, filled with the penitent believing that once they have served their time, they will rise in the jealously guarded lift to the shrine, joining those who have been admitted to the true presence - the £50m platinum skull completely covered by 8,601 diamonds. "The most expensive piece of contemporary art ever created, " the press release pointed out, in case anyone had missed the point.
This morning's press view worked hard to up the paranoia levels. Only carefully screened groups of hacks were invited to Mason's Yard to view the skull and meet the master, admitted in groups of three for 10 minutes at a time. The groups were oddly composed so that the woman from the Evening Standard, sliding inexorably past her deadline, was given a later slot than the man from the Art Newspaper who has a month before the next edition. The pondlife press had been ordered to assemble at Hoxton, and make the best they could of that before being admitted to Mason's Yard later in the day. The correspondent from the Times, judged insufficiently respectful in the past, was banned completely.
Hirst himself was sitting in gallery owner Jay Jopling's beautiful penthouse office, scruffy in scuffed boots and artfully tattered shirt with bat and skeleton print - relaxed, amiable and chatty. Beside him sat the large, suited, sterner presence of Frank Dunphy, his business manager - who broke into the conversation just once. When Hirst said the price was "rounded up" to stop any buyer making an overnight profit, Dunphy added: "Maybe it's not high enough?"
Hirst, as casually as if speaking of assembling a flatpack kitchen cabinet, said it had all turned out better than he expected: "I was worried it might look like a skull ring - spend all that money and you just end up with a disco ball, shock horror."
In the innermost sanctuary, the diamond skull is at head height, in a crystal clear glass case lit by four sharp narrow beams of light. The room's walls, ceiling and floor are painted black, so black that those entering from the bright corridor immediately crash, blinded, into one another.
Like the crown jewels in the Tower, which it bizarrely resembles, it is hard to see the object itself behind the dazzle of light. An unemployed photographer - only the gallery's own supplied images are permitted "for security reasons" - looked in delight at the pin points of light dancing across his T-shirt. "It's a disco ball, innit?" he said happily. "A £50m disco ball."
Geplaatst door anonymous op Saturday, June 02, 2007