Tuesday, July 31, 2007

diamonds, art and immortality

Damien Hirst - skull

'For the Love of God' - Damien Hirst

Was anyone else listening? Radio National on Sunday afternoon? A program analysing Hirsts' "collaboration" with Bond Street Jewellers Bentley and Skinner? With guest commentator Robert Baines!!

If not, you can download it from here

The focus of last Sunday's Artworks program was on 'collaboration' and featured articles on two performing arts works as well as a conversation between Deborah McCoy and Robert Baines analysing 'For the Love of God' by Damien Hirst (pictured). The work is introduced as "the world's most expensive collaboration" but, while Hirst acknowledges that the piece was produced by Bentley and Skinner, I very much doubt that he would call it a 'collaboration'. In fact in most of the publicity surrounding the work, B&S are simply referred to as "a Bond Street Jeweller". This would seem to imply that what is important is not the skills of the particular maker but the value of their real estate!

It was wonderful to hear a contemporary jeweller's (or as Baines terms it, an "art jeweller's") analysis of this work on national radio. I have read much commentary in the press analysing it in terms of contemporary art practice and contemporary art collecting but it's interesting to not have heard much about it from the contemporary jewellery/craft sector (forgive me if I've missed anything).

On a superficial level the work is intrinsically linked to jewellery practice, but the more I think about it, the more irrelevant it starts to seem. Baines points out that if an artist jeweller had made this piece it would be totally dismissed. And he's right. But as he also points out, the use of precious materials in contemporary jewellery is often subversive; stones are drilled into, set upside down, etc. A contemporary jeweller would not make this work, with it's complete orthodoxy of materials and techniques.

Hirst uses the platinum and diamonds to symbolise perfection and mastery of material and technique. Contemporary jewellers use these materials to question those symbols and to talk about what jewellery is and what it can be.

Hirst is not the first artist to employ 'artisans' to realise his ideas, Jeff Koons being the most prominent. But also, closer to home, Patricia Piccinini's practice is more that of a 'producer', she employs a diverse team of people from digital animators to auto paint artists to produce her art works. Usually these artisans are uncredited. In the case of 'For the Love of God' the crediting of "a Bond Street Jeweller" says less about Immortality (as Hirst states the work is about) and more about hefty price tags and inflated publicity.


Liana said...

Interesting post! A bit of debate is good for the soul.

Glad to see you are back home. x

Anonymous said...

Great blog topic. In response I'd say -

1. agree - not not a collaboration

2. agree - not to be viewed, reviewed or considered as contemporary art jewllery.

3. agree - if an art jewller did this it would be dismissed by 'their own'. So is the discourse around what contemporart art jewellery is limiting these practitioners?

4. the popularity of Hirst's exquisitley executed extreme gothic vulgarity does make one wonder not only about contemporary art but about contemporary society - where are the diamonds from? are they blood diamonds - is it a comment on the diamond trade in Africa? I could look into that.

Thanks. E

shula said...

mind-blowingly beautiful.

roseyglow said...

yeah i heard robert speak and it was great to have his commentry on this piece especially as i have been so out of the loop. however i understood robert as saying that if an artist jeweller had done it it would not be recognised or credited for having such "artistic" value. This makes me wonder if an artist jeweller would or could have undertaken such a piece given the history of gem use in "artist"jewellery, the resources (financial + material+skill) and the concept. I think its a brilliant collaboration - very shrewd of bentley&skinner, great marketing for them. it isnt however the first skull to be created or covered in a jewel like manner as i think the australian artist fiona hall did a beaded one but i much prefer Hirst's - it's quite sickingly (sp) beautiful. Good on you anna keep up th blog.

shannon said...

Damien Hirst is famous for not having a studio but an "office". If Bentley and Skinnner did this work because of publicity ( and they might have,or it could have just been a lucrative job) it brings into question the entire practice of post-modern art. Hirst has often been accused of being a shameless publicist and his work could be seen to play with this concept. What happens when the artisans jump on the publicity wagon via a work of art? Can you trick a Tricker?

vickijewel said...

Indeed good to to hear a jeweller (Robert Baines)comment on this 'wow' factor piece. After looking up the word collaboration it seems that yes this work does fit the definition of a collaboration,(alliance, assist, pact, service, backing, benefit etc... )albeit a stange one where could it be argued the benefits flowing from it are not distributed fairly, but then maybe they are - as publicity is publicity is publicity... Maybe you can play the publicity game as an artisan but where does it all lead in the end? To more sales? to a raising of the value of the artisans work in the public mind? ummmm

Alexiev said...

Diamond skull is contiguous... podre to buy one for the bath? Greetings from Buenos Aires...

Alexiev Store

Lynette said...

This piece drove me crazy with all the attention it got, I posted a little piece about it as well! Thanks for the post!