November 21, 2011 / 1:03 PM / 7 years ago

Artist Hirst's diamond skull part of retrospective

LONDON (Reuters) - Artist Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull sculpture will go on display as part of the first major retrospective of his career to be staged in his native Britain.

“For the Love of God,” which fetched the then equivalent of $100 million in 2007 when it was sold to a consortium of investors including the artist himself, is one of Hirst’s most famous and controversial works.

A life-size platinum cast of an 18th century human skull has been covered with 8,601 flawless diamonds, including a 52.4 carat pink stone which has been valued alone at four million pounds ($6.3 million).

Like much of Hirst’s work, the sculpture is a commentary on mortality and death as well as market forces, although to some critics it amounts to little more than “bling.”

The work will go on show in Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall as a free display, but also accompanies a retrospective being staged in the same London gallery.

That exhibition, running from April 4 to September 9, 2012 and sponsored by the Qatar Museums Authority, will bring together more than 70 of Hirst’s works, including a shark suspended in formaldehyde and a bisected cow and calf.

Also on display will be examples of other Hirst trademark pieces — cabinets lined with medicine, spin and spot paintings and butterfly images.

The 46-year-old is considered one of Britain’s most influential contemporary artists whose works and business acumen have made him rich.

He rose to prominence in the late 1980s and 1990s as the leading member of a movement known as Young British Artists, whose members were quickly accepted by commercial collectors around the world and the British art establishment.

Hirst has long divided critics between those who champion art that deals with death and the monetary value of painting and sculpture, and those who believe he is a canny businessman more than talented artist.

The retrospective at Tate Modern will be open during the Summer Olympics in London and is part of the London 2012 Festival which aims to showcase British art during the event.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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