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Artists and Their Skulls - A Love Affair

CATEGORY: Skulls, Art

DIVISION: Modern Evil Products

NOTE: The second everyone signs the deal, the Modern Evil Company will be offering for sale authentic, limited-edition replicas of the Art Skulls created by Steven Gregory and Damien Hirst. These one-of-a-kind collectibles will dramatically increase in value over their lifetime. They also make memorable gifts.

No Bones About It, These Skulls Are Different

by Charlotte Higgins

To those without finely tuned aesthetic judgment, the similarities between the works seem obvious; but to the artists such comparisons are lacking in imagination.

"My skulls and his are very different objects," says Steven Gregory, who has until now kept silent on the apparent congruities between the malachite, pearl or lapis lazuli skulls he has been making since 2001 and Damien Hirst's dazzling sculpture, For the Love of God, produced last year. "What Damien has done is to cast a skull in platinum and encrust it with diamonds. What I do is completely different: I follow the surface of the skull exactly, usually covering it with semi-precious stones."

Yet Hirst and Gregory seem be treading surprisingly similar paths. "About two weeks before there was a piece in the press saying that Damien was doing his skull, I was talking to De Beers [the diamond dealers] about the possibility of my using uncut diamonds on a skull," says Gregory. "It never went anywhere. They weren't interested."

He says the works tell completely different stories. "I put eyes in mine - so the skulls look back; you interact with them. Damien's is very different: with the diamonds there is so much glare coming off, it's as if you can't quite get your eyes to focus on the surface."

And there's undeniably a difference in the price tag. Hirst's skull piece was reportedly sold for £50m. A Gregory skull will cost you £25,000.

Hirst, who declined to comment for this article, is a fan and supporter of Gregory's work. In 2002 he bought some of the first embellished skulls that Gregory made and showed them in the Serpentine Gallery exhibition of his personal art collection in 2006. Hirst also contributed a foreword, and an interview with Gregory, for an exhibition catalogue in 2005.

They share a no-nonsense approach to the use of human remains as materials for their art (Gregory sources his bones from a dealer in scientific antiques, using skeletons once used as teaching aids for medical students).

In his interview with Gregory, Hirst said: "I think if people are being stupid enough to leave their skulls lying around where they can be picked up and start changing hands then it's, you know, it's their own fault, what do they expect? Anything goes." And Gregory said: "I think the taboos to do with bones and skeletons are learned in adulthood, as I've had kids in my studio spending hours playing with [...] beaded bones."

Hirst gave him an early look at For the Love of God ("I really wanted to pick it up and feel it, but Damien said it was a bit awkward because of the security.")

Does Gregory believe Hirst owes him a debt of inspiration? He indicates a postcard in his London studio of 7,000-year-old decorated skulls. "What I am doing is no different from what has been done in the past and what will no doubt be done in the future," he says.

An exhibition by Gregory includes nine skulls, a bronze love seat cast from human bones and a sculpture of an orchid made from beaded bone. He might move away from skulls, he says. "I don't want to be the guy who does the skulls. It seems there's a big fashion for them at the moment."

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