Diamond Skull by Damien Hirst

I mentioned the Damien Hirst diamond encrusted skull being made before, but now it’s finished and being exhibited at the White Cube gallery in London.

diamond skull by damien hirst

diamond skull and damien hirstIt is a platinum cast of a skull from an actual person that lived between 1720 and 1810. He was a 35 year old man from Europe. His teeth are still showing, but the rest of him is covered with 8,601 diamonds.

The diamonds are also said to have been “ethically sourced”, whatever that means..

Hirst’s diamond skull is on the market for about $100 million, which will be a good return on the artist’s investment as he spent about $20 million on putting the thing together. That’s an $80 million dollar idea! Not bad for an artist out of ideas.

The BBC has a short video of the exhibition online, but they had to turn the cameras off before they got into the room. Here’s a couple Damien Hirst quotes from the BBC article..

“It works much better than I imagined. I was slightly worried that we’d end up with an Ali G ring.”
Damien Hirst Quote

“I wouldn’t mind if it happened to my skull after my death.”
Damien Hirst Quote

A lot of people feel very strongly about it, either negatively or positively, but that’s part of the job of an artist; to make people think or look at things in a different way. So, in the responses that it has provoked, it succeeds as a work of art.

Do I like it?.. Probably not, but that doesn’t really matter. It does make you think about a lot of things though.. life, death, ethics, precious jewels and the mining of them, money, art, beauty.. and on and on.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. And I thought acrylic paint medium was dear.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Something to think about.

    If Damien Hurst announced that he was kidding about the value of the diamonds and they are just fakes, how would the work be viewed?

    If the Hurst skull of diamonds was a love heart covered in diamonds, would it be more acceptable?

  3. I agree, it makes you think alot. I think that makes a great piece of art.

  4. that puts a spin on the “taking your money to the grave” saying… there are probably very few people in the world who can actually buy this thing.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hirst is of course a celebrated artist… that doesn’t mean that everything he creates should be celebrated.

  6. I bet if he did a plaster cast of poop and covered in diamonds it would be a bold hit ;)

    I like it, not because he did it but because I have a penchant for decorated skulls like Day of the Dead skulls etc. But with Hirst now I always wonder, did he do it or did he pay people to do it for him? Is it actually HIS idea or just his appropriated idea (wink! wink! if you know what I mean).

  7. Anonymous says:

    Robert Hughes once said that the one thing about art that we don’t like to admit is that it has always been fashion. If one started with the Renaissance (an arbitrary choice) one can see how things changed from one generation to the next. However, culture moved, as did everything then, at a slower rate than it does now and the changes developed in a more organic way (master/pupil/workshop relationships). Language, dress, economics, politics or any other aspect of civilization changed with the passing of time. It, of course, seems obvious that visual language would change as well. Yes, Andy Warhol was right about everything, but his comments are usually about art’s reception not it’s development. A good example being that, calculatingly disingenuous as always, when being taken through a large exhibit of J.S.Sargent (a show over which he was ecstatic and effusive), he asked “…why don’t people paint like this anymore?”.

    I level no claim of being a critic, so, because of it’s insightfulness, I would like to quote what amounted to a favorable assessment written in the New Yorker by Peter Schjeldahl about Neo Rauch.

    “Collectors are tumbling over one another to rate contemporary art higher and higher, in a frenzy that feels religious – the market as a medieval cathedral under construction, whose consumption of resources declares the priority of immaterial belief over practical needs. Inflated financially and, through booming institutions, socially, art may never have been more esteemed while meaning less”.

    Nowhere in the article does he sound critical for the sake of being critical, but I think he has certainly come upon the heart of the situation. The consternation of those of us who regard a diamond encrusted skull as nothing more than a strident brooch or perhaps a hood ornament for a pimp will simply have to be patient, follow our faith in something better and allow the wealthy to indulge their insecurities.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You probably can cheat on this.. :)) among these diamonds have some fake ones too.. do they check every single diamond? :) Do they?..

  9. I would actually prefer it without the gaudy decoration on the forehead.

  10. at least it functions better than a diamond encrusted platinum mouth piece.

    you all care enough to blog about it.


  11. If I need an empty sparkly skull to make me think then I probably have fewer working brain cells than the skull itself. This is not art news but it is Show Biz news. I hope one day we will be better at distinguishing between the two. Perhaps our use of language neads to evolve so that we can break free from the tyranny of “It’s art ‘cos I say it’s art” and have an understanding of what defines Fine Art from Shock Art or Freak Art. For me the test is do you want to look at again a week after the first buzz of the news story. If we’ve all moved on the latest gimmick then it was clearly not much more than a piece of Stunt Art.

  12. I wonder if high prices paid for art can really grant a piece permanent value. It would be interesting to follow the long-term value of work like this which acquires much of its importance because of its price.

  13. “Raising Kane” or the magical exuberance of “Citizen Kane”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Work of art? He is not an artist. It’s all commercial value to him. Is this just another way for rich people to deal with their time and excess of money. If Paris Hilton or Ali G say they did it, instead of Hurst, would you call that art? or just another publicity stunt?


  16. Niani, It isn’t really a matter of caring or not caring about the work itself as much as being aware of what is going on in the art world and taking the time to let art news know what we think of it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Just in case anyone was wondering –
    “ethically sourced” diamonds is refering to where the diamonds originally came from. Damien Hirst is stating that the diamonds are not “blood diamonds” or “corrupt diamonds” and can be traced back to their original source. A lot of people feel strongly about where diamonds come from and many people refuse to be apart of the corrupt and monopolized diamond market. I’ll just say, I’ll never own or buy a diamond for anyone:)

  18. Earl, my definition of art is pretty broad, so you could see anything from bathroom tiles to old shoes posted on art news blog..lol.

    Karl, the good thing about the value of the Hirst diamond skull is that even if Damien Hirst is a nobody in years to come, there will still be at least $20 million in diamonds to sell (assuming the value of diamonds dont go down).

    Jafabrit, I love the Day of the Dead connection. It’s not like he can say he hasnt been to Mexico and wasnt influenced by their decorated skulls. I think it’s his way of acknowledging the Day of the Dead, as that’s what his art is really all about (death and life).

  19. My take on it was that he was either commenting or capitalizing on a seeming fascination with skulls and tattoos being embraced as almost mainstream decorative art and fashion accessories. This actually kind of reminds me of a Dolce and Gabbana (I think) purse (that some celebrity was probably photographed with) – a big purse with a huge skull on it made up of rhinestones. Maybe not unlike Andy Warhols Campbell soup can or Jeff Koons giant balloon animals? Something that is in pop culture taken to its furthest extreme?

  20. Love him or hate him, Hirst certainly knows how to generate publicity for his work, which is something every artist has to do.

    Surely it’s part of the function of art to do be provocative?

    It’s easier to provoke if you have something to rebel against- Czech sculptor David Cerny is an example of this.

    He’s the one that created a sculpture of Saddam Hussein and put it in a tank of formaldehyde (a pastiche of the Damien Hirst shark). They refused to show it in Belgium and Poland; who said censorship was dead in Europe..

    Here’s a link with a recent interview:


  21. It reminds me of the crystal skull that used to show up on Arthur C Clark’s series called the Mysterious World…there’s a bit of magic to it, but whether it’s art (the age old debate)or should be construed as art is another question. Let’s hope the skull oesn’t attract the ghost of its owner. A possessed skull…now that would be something to talk about.

  22. A word on art. I am so tired of people saying, “You call that art?” The intent, of course, is to imply that anything that isn’t a life-like oil portrait or sculpture of some idealized representation of a person, place or bowl of fruit is not art. Of course, taste for art is personal, and I respect others opinions, but one of the purposes of great art is to inspire emotion within its audience. Even if that emotion is revulsion, frustration or anger, if it has done that, then the artist has succeeded in expressing him/herself. I will say, however, that “art” created solely for commercial gain (as opposed to a need for the artist to express emotion) is not art. It can be tough to determine these things, though, without the artist’s express confession. In this case, I feel Hirst’s expression is sincere, and I appreciate it.

  23. Art is a word that is used loosely and is applied to anything out of the norm. This is beyond ridiculousness, and I am at the point that I realize that man kind is becoming bored with himself and will not make an effort to do something of real value. This is art only because some superficial ,pretentious *bleep(s)* are willing to pay for this or request it done in the first place.

    That money could have been donated to a good cause. I wonder did this artist use conflict diamonds to make this work? Just a question! Either way you look at it, it is a waste, but blood diamonds would be far more of an issue.

    Conflict Free!

  24. Why did he have to whiten the teeth?

  25. Help africa. and than spend stupit money on stupid thing!

  26. Thats a crazy thing to do with somebodies remains. I guess I’d have no problem if it was done to mine but looks an awesome family heir loom, haha!

  27. It looks like a fake peice of shit…. the diamonds look like the ones you put on your cell phone

  28. Anonymous says:

    diamond skull art,ooooohhhh poppy cock,put a “F” in front of ART and thts wat you get.

  29. Anonymous says:

    looks like he paid Ed Hardy to do it.. lol (or stole the idea from an Ed Hardy hat)


  1. [...] My guess is that at least half of all working artists in the world have created at least one skull this year! Every art magazine I pick up has at least one skull in it. Are we looking at our own mortality or is it just because of the Damien Hirst skull? [...]

  2. […] “For the Love of God” will cost up to $18 million to create and will have as many as 8500 diamonds stuck to it. “The biggest expense will be the fifty-caret beauty that will sit on the forehead. That one alone will cost in the region of three to five million pounds. It is certainly the biggest single undertaking by a jeweler since the Crown jewels.” Damien Hirst […]

  3. […] Diamond Skull by Damien Hirst […]

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  5. […] business manager on the phone recently. Frank Dunphy talked a little about the infamous diamond encrusted skull and the $100 million price […]

  6. […] much cooler are these dead saints covered in bling than Damien Hirst’s diamond skull? The 400 year old skeletons were dressed up and decorated by churches and distributed to other […]

  7. […] most famous works along with a number of previously unseen works. For the Love of God (diamond encrusted skull), The Immortal (dead shark), Ventolin (spot painting) and Enemy (medicine cabinet) are among the […]

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