The Smallest Diamond Covered Skull in the World


A couple years ago, I was looking at a photo of Damien Hirst posing with For the Love of God . In the photo, his head was right next to the sculpture. It was obvious that the artwork was approximately half the size of his head. After finding out that the skull cost over 20 million dollars to produce, it became clear to me that Hirst had chosen to cast his diamond covered platinum skull from a small human skull, due to financial restrictions. A skull that is as big as Hirst’s skull would be approximately 4 times larger in surface area. The cost of producing such an artwork would be at a minimum of 100 million dollars, if it were made simply by adding more diamonds of the same size as the ones that were used in For the Love of God. However, if he had chosen to make For the Love of God with a full sized skull, with the same amount of diamonds, then the diamonds would have to have been approximately 4 times larger. Due to the rarity of such large Fair Trade, high quality diamonds, one can only guess that this skull would likely have cost Hirst somewhere close to half a billion dollars; maybe more. So, I became inspired. I saw how even a huge artist like Hirst, with a seemingly endless budget, was forced to find a creative way around his lack of funding. It would have been a bit lame if he would have just shrunk a regular skull, so he found a real skull from the 1800’s that happened to be small. I decided that I was going to make my own version of a diamond covered skull, but I was going to focus on size in an extreme way. I decided to make the smallest diamond covered skull in the world.

I went through many ideas and did much research. I finally decided that I can make the smallest possible skull by having a Genetics laboratory program the word “Skull” into a piece of bacteria, via genetic coding. I then researched what Hirst had to say about why he chose that particular skull to make the platinum casting off of. What Hirst said in an interview was as follows: “It was quite hard to find a skull that actually just said I’m a skull and not said anything else.” I view this as a very obscure quote that clearly Hirst is using as a way to cover up the fact that he simply could not make the exact skull that he initially had intended to. I think that Hirst was afraid of being criticized by those who would say that he had compromised his vision. I personally think that he should have just told the truth and told the world that sometimes, due to financial restrictions, the artist has to find new and interesting ways to make an artwork. I once heard Chris Burden say something along the lines of how Conceptual Art evolves as it is being produced; that it turns into something different than the initial intention. I think he said it during a lecture that I watched online. I’m with Chris Burden on this one.

To suit my own budget, I decided to have the genetically coded material produced and then to cover it with diamond powder. I wasn’t sure, for quite some time, what I would place this genetic material onto or even what the code would say, aside for the word “Skull.” I ultimately chose to have the aforementioned Hirst quote programmed into the genetics. (“It was quite hard to find a skull that actually just said I’m a skull and not said anything else.”) The genetic material had to be placed on an object of great importance; one that resonated an important message. Then I came across another Damien Hirst quote. Actually, I don’t even know if the following quote is by Hirst. It’s widely attributed to him, but unlike the first quote I didn’t see him saying it on video.

Supposedly Hirst said: “I think suicide is the most perfect thing you can do in life.” This quote might seem slightly clever, but it’s really another obscure quote that, in my mind, is nothing more than an attempt to garner attention. Furthermore it’s incredibly insensitive towards anyone who has ever had suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, or committed suicide. This is one of the biggest artists in the world publicly encouraging people to kill themselves? Whether Hirst said it or not, I find it appalling that nobody else seems to be outraged about this quote. Far too many people, in our society, have no sympathy for those who suffer from the types of mental illness that often leads to suicide, suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts. Because of this quote, I decided to apply the genetic material onto a thick manila (Hemp) rope that was tied into a noose. I then realized that a noose displayed in a gallery would likely trigger suicidal thoughts in some gallery goers, so I changed my plan. I untied the noose and cut a piece out, from a section of the rope that once was part of the noose. I covered a portion of the piece of rope with the genetic code. I then applied diamond powder mixed with lacquer over that portion. Lastly, I inserted the rope into a pill bottle that once housed Ondansetron ODT (an anti-nausea medication).

We have a serious suicide problem in this country. Approximately two-thirds of gun deaths are by suicide. Over 40,000 total suicides in America per year and far more attempts. Globally, over one million people per year die from suicide. It’s nauseating to think about.