POLL: How offensive is Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted baby skull?

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Few artists know how to polarize the public like Damien Hirst, the British provocateur and Turner Prize winner whose most famous works include a shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, a living installation of a fly’s life cycle and a sculpture depicting an anatomical cross-section of a pregnant woman titled ‘Virgin Mother.’

This week, Hirst finds himself once more at the center of art-world chatter thanks to his 2008 sculpture ‘For Heaven’s Sake,’ which depicts a human baby skull covered in diamonds. The work is part of a Hirst solo show that is scheduled to open this month at the new Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong.


The Gagosian’s website offers this description of the sculpture: ‘For Heaven’s Sake (2008) is a life-size human baby skull cast in platinum and covered in 8,128 pavé-set perfect diamonds: 7,105 natural fancy pink diamonds and, on the fontanel, 1,023 white diamonds. This spectacular memento mori was cast from an original skull that formed part of a 19th-century pathology collection that Hirst acquired some years ago.’

(‘For Heaven’s Sake’ is something of a companion piece to Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God,’ a life-size cast of a mature human skull in platinum covered in diamonds.)

According to a report this week in Britain’s Telegraph, a parenting group claims that the art work is offensive to those who have suffered the bereavement of a child.The newspaper quotes the group Netmums as saying that the artist ‘may not have intended to be insensitive with his new work, but the fact is it will have a profound effect on many people who will find the subject deeply disturbing.’

The newspaper also quotes Jude Tyrrell, the director of Science Ltd., Hirst’s main art-production company, saying: ‘Of course it’s a delicate subject, but this is from an old collection, which we think is Victorian, and they were obsessed with collecting all sorts of bizarre things.’

How do you feel about Hirst’s baby skull? Let us know in our poll.


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-- David Ng