Last month, I went to the last day of the extended exhibition of Damien Hirst’s diamond skull that was on display in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, in the Studiolo of Francesco I de’ Medici. Frankly, I did not have an enormous desire to see it, but during a conference I attended on contemporary art (yes, For the Love of Contemporary in Renaissance Florence!) the entrance to this museum an others around Florence was free until 2am, so why not check it out? Not every day is there a controversial contemporary artist exhibited in Florence.
The skull is a platinum cast from a real skull probably from the 18th century found in a taxidermy shop in London. The 8,601 perfect diamonds (1,106.18 carats) including the 52.40 carat pink pear-shaped diamond in the middle are claimed to have been ethically sourced (I sure hope so). The teeth are real.
I suppose the most interesting part of seeing this opulent “jewel” was its context of the jewel-box-like Medici study which is not always open to the public. To enter from the Salone dei Cinquecento, one had to pass through the little door in the rear at the right (see photo above) and enter a small and completely dark room beyond with the skull spot-lighted on a secured pedestal and a security guard with a flashlight. What a strange exhibition context in the Palazzo Vecchio.
Some images of the construction of this $100 million momento mori can be seen here. For the most expensive work of art probably ever made, I was certainly surprised at the lackadaisical Italian security. There was not even a metal detector at the entrance like there used to be. The diamond-encrusted skull has been displayed two other times in 2007 and 2008.
For the love of God, what will Damien do next?