Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hirst's diamond skull sells for $122 million

August 31, 2007 08:03am
A DIAMOND-encrusted platinum skull by artist Damien Hirst has been sold to an investment group for the asking price of $122 million, a spokeswoman for Hirst's London gallery White Cube has said.
The skull, cast from a 35-year-old 18th century European man but retaining the original teeth, is coated with 8601 diamonds, including a large pink diamond worth more than $9.87 million in the centre of its forehead.
The artist's manager said the skull, adorned with 1106 carats of diamonds, would be paid for in cash. The gallery spokeswoman said she could give no more details of the buyer.
"Damien Hirst has retained a participation in the work - he still owns a share of it - in order that he can oversee a global tour of the work that is currently being planned," she said.
"The investment group anticipates selling it within the next few years," she was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
She said Hirst would also sell his stake at that time.
The skull caused a sensation when it first went on display at an exhibition of new works by Hirst at the White Cube in central London on June 3 - not least because of its price tag.
Some critics dismissed it as tasteless while others saw it as a reflection of celebrity-obsessed culture.
After the sale, Hirst said: "I hope it makes the people who see it feel good, that it's uplifting, that it takes your breath away.
"It works much better than I imagined. I was slightly worried that we'd end up with an Ali G," Britain's Press Association quoted him as saying.
Works by Hirst, who first made his name displaying diced and pickled animals, became the most expensive at auction for a living artist when his "Lullaby Spring" pill cabinet sold at Sotheby's in London for $23.7 million.
The skull is the most expensive piece to date by Hirst, already a millionaire several times over.
The sale of the skull brings to $429 million the value of works sold from the June exhibition.
Generally the gallery takes 30 per cent and Hirst 70 per cent of the proceeds.
As an indication of the wealth he has amassed since being spotted in 1991 by art collector Charles Saatchi, Hirst, who financed the skull himself, said he couldn't remember whether it had cost $25 million or $35 million to make.
He bought the skull from a taxidermy shop in Islington, north London.
He said from the outset he wanted the work, titled "For the Love of God" and inspired by similarly bejeweled Aztec skulls, to be on public view.
He rejected suggestions that his works were more a standing joke against the art establishment than real works of art.
But when asked at the time of the exhibition what his next project would be he immediately replied: "Two diamond skeletons shagging - no just kidding".

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