The ultimate symbol of the art world's excesses will form the centrepiece of the first major British retrospective of Damien Hirst's work next year at Tate Modern. For the Love of God, the diamond-encrusted skull which notoriously sold for £50m in 2007 to a consortium which included Hirst himself, will be housed in the gallery's huge turbine hall for nearly three months. As the world struggles with economic troubles, some of the artist's best-known works, many of which have sold for millions, have been chosen to showcase British art during London's Olympic year.
"They are super-familiar on one level but in a new context the work will be interesting on another level," said Chris Dercon, Tate Modern's director. He added: "There is a kinaesthetic aspect when you are in a room with these works, seeing your own reflection in the vitrines. It is as if you are stepping into a laboratory of ideas".
Among the approximately 70 works on display will be Hirst's 1991 shark in formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, and A Thousand Years, the 1990 large glass case containing maggots and flies feeding off a rotting cow's head. The exhibition's curator, Ann Gallagher, said there would also be "at least one" new work.
Visitors will also be able to see a two-part installation, In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies) and its accompanying piece Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays), exhibited together for the first time since 1991. People at the gallery will able to be able to walk through a room in which butterflies are hatching and then dying, another example of Hirst's long-standing obsession with the themes surrounding death.
Hirst appeared in a video at yesterday's press launch. He said: "I am really pleased that the diamond skull will be on exhibition again in London."