The first thing that springs to mind upon contemplating For the Love of God, Damien Hirst’s diamond-studded skull, on sale for $100 million at White Cube in London, is the diamond-studded bra that is an annual feature of Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, worn by, say, Heidi Klum or Gisele Bundchen. Death, in a benign, kitschy form, has been part of these shows, in which nudey, dudey models wear angels’ wings.
To Damien Hirst, every fuck is a harbinger of death: He must get the severe shakes every time he attempts a ’gasm! Then there’s the money: Perhaps it’s occurred to Hirst that rising, hedge-induced prices for every bit of schlock he shows at the Tate, Saatchi or Gagosian is tempting fate a bit too much. An act of hubris, as it were. What’s striking about Damien’s career-long exploitation of mortality is his lack of humility when blowing the Reaper. He positively revels in mortafellatio, at least during his waking hours.
Short of a beautiful face, "memento mori" is the greatest cliché in art. The skull seems oh so permanent beneath the skin, but it will eventually become dust, too. Andrew Marvell and Hamlet have immortalized (!) this theme, so we hardly need Hirst to throw in his spadeful, over and over. If anyone ever needed to "get religion,” in the ontological sense, it is the distinguished Mr. Hirst. Anonymity, chastity, even poverty might suit his soul at the moment. Otherwise, to quote the theme from M*A*S*H*, "suicide is painless."
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).