Wednesday, 17 September 2008

On Dorian Hirst and Damian Gray

Damian Hirst said at the press view of his 2007 Beyond Belief exhibition that he was worried his £50 million diamond skull (actually a platinum skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, but who’s counting?) would end up looking like a very expensive piece of nightclub tat: ‘Spend all that money and you just end up with a disco ball, shock horror.’

One year on, and there it was – a giant replica of the skull in all its vacuous glory – forming the centrepiece of a nightclub scene in Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray at Sadler’s Wells.

Bourne’s Dorian is a modern-day fashion model, whose photographs adorn the set and, like the portrait in Oscar Wilde’s novel, become defaced and ugly over time while the person they represent remains ageless and unchanging. Dorian, his body-beautiful untainted by the drugs and debauchery in which he becomes immersed, is the face of ‘Immortal – pour homme’, a perfume that transmutes into ‘Mortal’ by the performance’s end.

Damian Hirst is a different, altogether cleverer, kettle of (art)ifice. But you do wonder, as his diamond and formaldehyde creations defy the ravages of time, what price he is paying in his creative soul for the $198 million he earned from that auction of his work at Sotheby’s.
Not that I’d mind having that disco skull in my living room, you understand.

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