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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Hirst unveils 50m diamond skull
Damien Hirst and For the Love of God
The diamonds encase a real human skull

Artist Damien Hirst has unveiled a diamond-encrusted human skull worth 50m - said to be the most expensive piece of contemporary art.

The 18th Century skull is entirely covered in 8,601 jewels, while new teeth were made for the artwork at a cost of 14m.

The centrepiece of the 41-year-old's creation is a pear-shaped pink diamond, set in the skull's forehead.

Hirst's most famous work is a shark preserved in formaldehyde.

The skull, which was bought from a shop in Islington, north London, is thought to belong to a 35-year-old European who lived between 1720 and 1810.

Flawless

The 12m-worth of diamonds are said to be ethically sourced.

Hirst said his piece, called For the Love of God, is "uplifting, takes your breath away".

"It works much better than I imagined. I was slightly worried that we'd end up with an Ali G ring," he added.

"You just want it to be flawless, like a diamond is a flawless. We wanted to put them everywhere," Hirst said of the skull.

"They go underneath, inside the nose. Anywhere you can put diamonds, we've put diamonds.

"I wouldn't mind if it happened to my skull after my death," he added.

The artist said that he was inspired by an Aztec turquoise skull at the British Museum, and hopes that his work will eventually be displayed at the institution.

Other Hirst works which have also gone on display at the White Cube gallery in London include a painting of his son's birth by Caesarean section and a tiger shark cut in half and suspended in two tanks of formaldehyde.

Art expert Charles Dupplin from specialist insurer Hiscox called the skull "another bold move" from Hirst.

"This is a spectacular piece and undoubtedly the work with the highest intrinsic value in modern and contemporary art," he added.


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