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Bereaved Berate British Bad Boy Baby Bedazzler

Illustration for article titled Bereaved Berate British Bad Boy Baby Bedazzler

British artist Damien Hirst's latest work is a a baby skull covered with diamonds. On one hand, diamonds are a girl's best friend, but on the other, dead baby. Ow, my ladybrain.

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The piece, called "For Heaven's Sake," features a tiny skull covered with platinum and diamonds. It will first go on display in the artists gallery in Hong Kong before heading Londonward later this year.

Critics say that the artist is exhibiting an unfortunate amount of callousness and that bereaved parents would be negatively emotionally impacted by the sight of a bedazzled baby skull, but the artist disagrees, as the remains are quite old. The skull is actually part of a 19th century collection of curiosities acquired by the artist, and the child whose skull is used in the sculpture died before he or she was two weeks old. (Side note: apparently there's this shadow market for human skulls? Even baby skulls? The surprise I feel in response to learning that indicates to me that I must be kind of sheltered.) Is there a statute of limitations on baby skull art?

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"For Heaven's Sake" is meant to follow Hirst's earlier work, an adult human skull covered with platinum and diamonds that fetched a nearly $100 million price tag called "For The Love Of God." Clearly I've been doing the wrong thing with my life, as the real money's in covering weird shit with jewels. I think my now-deceased childhood pets are still buried in the backyard at my parents' house; I wonder how much I could get for covering a cat ribcage with sequins. At least $100, right?

Artist Damien Hirst Offends Bereaved Parents By Using Infant's Skull for "Disturbing" New Artwork [The Telegraph]

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DISCUSSION

As an artist (and I hate to say this because I am sure I will be flamed) I really like Damien Hirst's art. The ideas he plays with are ideas that every artist has thought about, such as human mortality, the idea of people playing god, and the idea of the synthetic religion, really are somewhat poignant topics that most artists are somewhat afraid to breach so candidly and so brazenly.

Instead of criticizing shock for shock's sake, understand that that is what we artists do. We shock our audience into understanding our point of view, drawing them in. Yes, Damien Hirst encased two skulls in platinum and diamonds. But have you considered that it is more a statement on how we value material goods over human life? How none of our possessions will mean anything when we are dead? Call him hipster, but almost every single one of his works comments on our mortality, from The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, to A Thousand Years, to The Kingdom of the Father.

And not only that, the majority of his works (do a little more research than wikipedia for this) focus on the synthetic nature of what we now call "life" from the drugs we take to the salvation we want to feel from religion. His work may be controversial, but he is undeniably a genius. And if you don't agree on his being an artistic genius, you can certainly agree that his business genius is unparalleled in the art world. No other artist has done as well financially, while they were still alive. That being said, his name will go down in art history books hundreds of years from now whether you like it or not because he challenges our concept of what "art" is, just like Marcel Duchamp did, just as Andy Warhol did, just as Jackson Pollock or Constantin Brancusi or Louis Bourgeois did. It's not stupid. Stupid artists don't get international recognition.