Tom Sutcliffe: What the ornament business owes to Hirst

Related Topics

An interesting catalogue comes through the door – or rather a dull catalogue – for a middle-market furniture company called Dwell – with one interesting item in it. It's what you would call a conversation piece, I suppose – one of those bits of drawing-room bling which have no purpose but to be admired (or not) by your guests. And this dust-gatherer has cultural pedigree.

Described as a "Diamante encrusted skull", it's clearly been inspired by Damien Hirst's For the Love of God – a platinum skull set with 8,601 diamonds. It will, the company suggests, "make a stunning table centrepiece for those looking for something out of the norm". And the good news – in these straitened times – is that the price falls some way short of the original. Hirst's skull would have set you back £50m at the time when it first went on show. Dwell's polyresin version, studded with acrylic diamantes, will cost you just £169.

Which does raise the question of whether it is Dwell's skull at all. One assumes that this isn't a licenced product – since no reference is made to the original in the sales copy. And since you can't copyright an idea, it's possible that it doesn't have to be licenced anyway.

On the other hand Damien Hirst hasn't exactly been encouraging in the past towards those who treat his work as part of the common currency of culture – freely available for mash-ups and allusive games. He threatened to sue Go Airways for an advertising campaign that he took to be a reference to his spot paintings, and also demanded recompense from a teenage artist who had used images of the skull in collaged prints (apparently on the grounds that he'd infringed Hirst's copyright on the title, which can be protected). So it seems unlikely that he'll be happy about one of his more controversial works ending up as a pricey knick-knack.

There's a further irony too, of course, because Hirst himself has had the odd spot of bother in the past with complaints of imitation – one of which centred on For the Love of God itself, said by John LeKay, an old acquaintance of Hirst's, to bear a striking conceptual similarity to works he'd produced in the mid-1990s, with rather more affordable materials. So any defence of his own entitlements in this matter would be likely to raise the entitlements of others.

What's really intriguing about this cheeky knock-off, though, is what it suggests about Hirst's art. Because in making For the Love of God he himself was surely in the ornament business too – albeit at a rather more rarefied level. Even if an institution had purchased this work it would have been doing so to secure a trophy trinket – a must-see, must-talk-about object that would get the party going, even for those visitors who knew nothing about art at all.

And he had to construct it out of astoundingly precious materials because in any other form it's banality would be obvious. Perhaps he'll look at the Dwell catalogue and console himself with the thought that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But he should also reflect on the fact that some forms of flattery are the most cutting kind of criticism.

More surrealism from Street View

Google has been on the back foot for the last few days, after admitting that its Street View mapping cars had "inadvertently" collected email addresses and computer passwords from unencrypted wireless connections (frankly if you're too lazy to encrypt your wireless connection I'm not sure how much privacy you're entitled to, but set that aside for the moment).

Bad news for them from Italy, too – where privacy regulators have just ruled that Google must publicise the routes and itinerary of its mapping cars three days in advance, presumably to protect Italians from those embarrassing Street View moments in which your car ends up being snapped outside your mistress's apartment. The good news for everyone, though, is that it should also deliver a rich dividend in Street View surrealism.

Up till now those who take delight in embarrassing Street View cameras have had to be quick on the draw with their pants – or have inside knowledge about the driver's route – as was the case with the Norwegian frogmen who can be seen in enraged pursuit of a Street View car at Rugdeveien 39 in Bergen, Norway. But just imagine what Italian jokers will be able to contrive with three full days in which to plan their ambushes. One can only hope that things get fiercely competitive.

What Kiwis want from Hollywood

"New Zealanders rally behind Hobbit shoot" read a headline yesterday. Surely there are other things to hunt there, I thought – though I couldn't entirely suppress the feeling that a Hobbit cull might be a good way to protect ourselves from being overrun by the winsome, hairy-footed little creatures when Peter Jackson's film eventually emerges. My prejudiced brain had reached for the wrong shoot, of course. While Frenchmen take to the streets for their pension entitlements the people of New Zealand were marching for the right of their landscape to play its part in the continuing infantilisation of Hollywood cinema. I do wish they'd had shotguns in mind.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star