Hirst’s Baby Skull Stirs Controversy
One could argue that Hirst’s skull (For Heaven’s Sake) features similarities to Anqelique Houtkamp’s decorative and illustrative skulls. Both artists emphasises the notion of death through everyday materials and creative designs.
Houtkamp replicates the shape or the form of the skull through manufactured objects while Hirst actually uses an actual infant skull as the base. According to The Sun newspaper, Hirst’s skull caused outrage and controversy amongst the public, who interpreted the artist’s creation as unethical. Hirst incorporated thousands of diamonds to the base of a child’s skull, which was described as highly inappropriate or insensitive.
From a personal perspective, Hirt’s uses the skull as a form of creative expression, which challenges society’s interpretation of death within the contemporary culture. It all depends where the skull was sourced from and where it was found, although this particular information is not specified.
Top Image: Angelique Houtkamp Skulls
I wouldn’t personally identify this particular work as offensive or disrespectful to the dead and I wouldn’t actually mind if my skull was adorned with diamonds. One could argue that decorating or illustrating skulls has been practised for thousands of years throughout different cultures.
According to Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayer the Mexican sugar skulls are actually created in order to honour the deceased. In comparison MacDonald also claims that the human population have been collecting skulls for centuries, which were used to identify a person’s physical characteristics. Has the Western culture become sensitive to the subject of death within the Postmodern era?
Perhaps Hirst’s skull generates more of an emotional response from the viewer compared to Houtkamp’s work, which replicates the human skull through everyday items. Perhaps an actual skull stimulates a completely different reaction compared to an image or a representation of a skull.
The Sun, Outrage over Hirst’s Baby Skull, The Sun, 2012, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3340979/Outrage-over-Hirst-baby-skull.html (Accessed 10/9/12)
Bradshaw, Alan, Kerrigan, Finola & Holbrook, Morris.B. “Marketing the Arts: A Fresh Approach.” In Challenging Conventions in Arts Marketing, edited by Daragh and Kerrigan O’Reilly, Finola. Oxon: Routledge, 2010 p. 5-17
Houtkamp, Anqelique. “Info and Artwork.” Anqelique Houtkamp http://www.salonserpent.com/info.html.
MacDonald, Helen. Human Remains: Dissection and It’s Histories. Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2005
Carmichael, Elizabeth & Sayer, Chloe, The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006)