Damien Hirst skull to go on show at Tate Modern
It was the world’s most expensive piece of contemporary art, and one that sharply divided opinion.
Was Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull a work of genius from one of Britain’s most talented artists ? Or a tacky symbol of excess and an art market “drunk with money”, as one critic put it?
Now the public can decide for itself as the skull, titled For The Love of God, is to go on public display in Britain for the first time.
It will be exhibited in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall from April 4 - June 24 2012 to accompany a major retrospective of the artist’s work.
The skull will be housed in a special viewing room amid tight security. Cast in platinum - but retaining the original teeth of the 18th century skull’s owner - and covered in 8,601 diamonds, it has a 52.4 carat pink diamond on its forehead.
When Hirst unveiled the work in 2007, it carried a price tag of £50 million. It was bought for an undisclosed sum by a mystery “consortium of businessmen” that turned out to include Hirst himself.
In a video to accompany the installation, Hirst explained how he came to name the skull. “The idea of the title came from my mother - when I had crazy ideas she used to say, ‘For the love of God, what are you going to do next?’”
The main Hirst show will run from April 4 - September 9 next year, forming part of the London 2012 arts festival, and will feature 70 of the artist’s works spanning two decades.
Most of his greatest hits will be on show, from the pickled shark to the cow and calf suspended in formaldehyde, plus early examples of spot paintings and medicine cabinets.
Butterflies are a Hirst motif and one highlight of the exhibition, a recreation of a 1991 work, will involve visitors walking through a room filled with them. Ann Gallagher, the curator, said: “It shows the butterflies’ life cycle - hatching, mating and then expiring on the floor of the gallery.”
Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, said: “Damien Hirst is an artist who we all think we know because of reproductions of his works in the media, but it becomes a completely different thing if you can experience them.
“You will be able to see the skull in a completely different context, without the hype and speculation.”
He added that Hirst was “incredibly excited and also a little bit nervous about how all these works, when put together, will look in the reality of a museum”.