Since his first exhibitions in the early 1990s, Damien Hirst has emerged as one of the most influential and widely publicised figures in his generation of ‘Young British Artists’. Hirst came to broad recognition for his vitrine sculptures of animals in formaldehyde, cabinets full of pharmaceutical pills and paintings made from butterfly wings. Most recently, he notoriously produced works specifically for a single artist’s auction in 2008 at Sotheby’s — a project he called ‘Beautiful inside my head forever’. The auction netted over £111 million (around A$180 million) on the eve of what became known as the ‘global financial crisis’.
In 2007, Hirst created headlines with a sculpture titled For the love of God. This platinum cast of a human skull was adorned with 8500 diamonds, including a large, flawless diamond marking the position of a ‘third eye’ in the skull’s forehead. Only the real human teeth, set into the cast, were unadorned. In the print For the love of God, laugh 2007, Hirst continues to explore notions of mortality, spirituality, decadence and humour. Pictured with an expression of levity in the face of death, Hirst’s skull is screenprinted in fine detail and with a background covered with diamond dust. The application of glazes and diamond dust plays on symbolic value and conspicuous wealth. As a derivative of the sculpture, this silkscreen print plays on the market-driven hierarchy of ‘original’ versus ‘multiple’ status for art works while offering a memento mori for our time.