I wanted/felt obliged to see the Damien Hirst retrospective. Damien Hirst has been kicking about since he popped up as one of the Young British Artists back in the very British 1990’s. Hirst is now a pop culture staple - dead animals, assistants and diamonds (not to mention hefty price tags) have made him infamous. Right now he’s probably sitting on his pile of cash going bwahaha!
The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is always a fantastic space to enter, I love the sloping concrete floor and for some reason, no matter what they’ve stuck in there, I’m always surprised. At the end off the grey hall was a big black wall and on it was writing. It soon became clear that the rather expensive diamond skull, For the Love of God that Hirst sold of a tonne of money was free for everyone to see. I, like everyone else, had heard so much about it I kinda wanted to see it.
On the wall was a quote “I wanted to celebrate life by saying to hell with death.” Followed by a further insight into the diamond skulls meaning. Apparently Skull = ULTIMATE SYMBOL OF DEATH! Diamonds = ULTIMATE SYMBOL OF LUXURY AND DE-CA-DEEEEENCE! It was like a WWE smack-down fight between the two with Hirst as the referee. I understand the difficulties of trying to convey life in art but the contrast of death AKA nothing with everything represented by monetary value seemed crude. It’s not like Hirst’s using diamonds as a symbol for beauty or addressing their relation to both nature and man in their creation. It was all a bit… simple.
I queued in the zigzag rope line like I was trying to get into a club. Bouncer on the door with baton in his hand. 15 minutes later he’s checking my bag and I’m into the dark corridor where it went from Club Exclusive to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In the lit-from-above glass cube was the glistening skull. Thousands of tiny shiny circles and a big fat rock trimmed with petal shaped rocks slap bang on the forehead. We all got up close and stared; rainbow glimmers kicked off the platinum head and blinded us all. I fumbled about my bag fished out my glasses, which meant I could see the tiny raised dots of metal between the diamonds. There were diamonds all over it. Apart from the human teeth. I looked at them and how smooth they were, if not a bit stained. If I’d watched the video that had been playing outside I may have known whose teeth those were but I didn’t. I was thinking about them though. I then thought maybe it would have been more interesting for Damien to pull out his own teeth and stick them in this diamond encrusted skull then he could get a row of platinum diamond encrusted teeth shoved in his still living head.
I left that room with a dismal feeling; I didn’t think For the Love of God told me anything more than expensive and shiny things get attention - just like the cast of Made in Chelsea. It was gaudy and not beautiful and managed to leave its audience completely oblivious to both life and death. When it come to Hirst’s work I find some of it aesthetically pleasing and I am all for mass production and even the use of craftsmen to create something you cannot perfect yourself. However, are the concepts behind them really that valuable? For the love of God is this what we want to be gawping at? When I finally got out of the black room the Damien Hirst Retrospective had sold out, oh well there’s always 4od.