I'm sure you know Damien Hirst's recent work, For the Love of God. Created as the most expensive contemporary art work in the world, it is valued at about 75 million euros. Hirst underlines the value of the diamonds (about 30 million), and plays on the incapacity of judging the "value" of a work by giving it huge value since the beginning.
This business move, not uncommon among the creme de la creme of contemporary artists, is brilliant, of course. You either get it, or you don't. If you go for the bluff, it automatically ceases to be a bluff. Therefore, if you criticize it for being just a silly idea, or a great idea but with a silly number of zeros next to it, or for being a shallow philosophy for the nouveau-riches, then you just don't get it. Of course. Which makes it seem critique-proof.
So far, so good.
But it gets better.
"We must buy the diamond skull for Britain" - this proclamation was made to his countrymen by Jonathan Jones, a journalist of the Guardian to keep the"most amazing artefacts ever made in this country". Jones thus encourages the British to purchase this "work of art", made by"the treasure of Great Britain" Damien Hirst, which is currently on the market for 50 million pounds. Our British friends, we are coming to rescue you! Like the cheap Polish labour well known to you, Polish artist Peter Fuss wishes to relieve the British nation from such a great expense. "For the laugh of God" by Peter Fuss will be available in the Polish car on ART CAR BOOT FAIR at a competitive price of 1000 pounds. In addition, you may also buy a limited (1000 copies) edition of signed and numbered graphics for only 1 pound each. You will not have to wait for tickets anymore to seea skull set with diamonds, and the time of watching Fuss's skull willcertainly not be limited to 5 minutes! To make his work, Peter Fuss used about 9870 pieces of glass polished and cut to look like diamonds, worth 250 pounds and spent 18 hours to complete the piece. Income from sale of Fuss's skull and its accompanying graphics is supposed to amount to 2000 pounds - this is eight times as much as the invested amount! Before the skull goes to the trade fairs to London, it can be seen inPoland, during the Modelator event in Modelarnia, which will take place on28 June.
This is great. Answering another artist is really a delicate matter (and trust me, I know how it can fail). But here, the perfect match is created. It not only lives off the other work, and lives well, gives it a wonderful ironic twist, but also manages to play on the idea of production and even on the stereotype of cheap Polish labor!
One of the best aspects of this project is that it does not stop at an idea. It is not a conceptual work. Someone actually goes and does this, speaking on the very same level as the original statement. And with a terrific sense of humor.
Peter Fuss has been making some interesting work, most of it apparently attracted to controversy. I have been watching him from afar. Some of his previous work (see, for example, his Three Billboards About Love) is poignant and intense while remaining elegant, if not "beautiful". What I like about them, and what makes me uncomfortable as well, is the state of tension between the will of changing something and the need for a distanced, often ironic look, that tends towards a critical fatalism - if I can use that term (a situation where the work does nothing in the sense of working towards an alternative to whatever it criticizes, and appears to be presenting it as a horrible but unavoidable reality).
"For the Laugh of God" has the wonderful quality of being at the same time a critique and a development, a variation on a theme. Irony does not finish its scope. But then, of course it speaks a very different language. The lightness and double-meaning (after all, it is a skull) resemble Yorick's. There is a game between kitsch, luxury and rottenness that, to me, outplays master Hirst.
I would love to buy this. Unfortunately, not only am I completely broke, but I consider this is an opportunity that has to be understood, appreciated and used by the British. So maybe a print?
More on Damien Hirst's work here, on Peter Fuss's art here, and on other Polish related artists here.