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Jeff Koon's latest edition is possibly the most festive and staggeringly beautiful artwork from his Celebration series. The American artist has once again challenged the technical means, with the meticulousness of his latest project, as well as stretched the capabilities of porcelain practice throughout the 52 sharp cuts of the diamond.
Titled Diamond (Red), Jeff Koons reveals a reimagined iconography of a diamond, he revisits the form of nature´s creation that takes billions of years to form. As always, his works capture perfection not a glimpse or fragment of reality, but of the ideal, of a world of obtained dreams and perfection - the Diamond (Red) has a deliberate visual language that introduces us to a synthetic man-made creation.
Similarly to the original and monumental sculpture of Diamond, 1994-2005 (measuring seven feet wide and in five unique colour version of Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Pink), the limited fine-art edition shares a highly polished chromium surface that reflects light, but does not refract it in the same way as a real diamond, where light travels through the precious gemstone's 52 cuts. Characteristic of Koons's artworks, they share a deliberate mirroring effect of its environment, the surrounding and that of the viewer(s) - one cannot see the artwork without seeing oneself.
Diamond (Red), 2020
French Limoges porcelain with chromatic coating
Edition of 599
height: 32,4 cm (12.7 in.) diameter: 39,2 cm (15.4 in.)
Signed and numbered
Accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity
Original Box, designed by Jeff Koons
In mint condition
Explore the edition here
The Diamond (Red) is presented in the company of four gleaming golden settings at its corners, embracing the gemstone from every angle to keep it safe and in place. The narration of a diamond placed in a contemporary context is viewed as a cliché gesture showcasing love and commitment, also socially considered as a symbol of affluence. Commercial red diamonds are commonly known as the most expensive and the rarest diamond colour in the world. It's so rare in fact, that it is thought that only 30 true gem-quality red diamonds are known to exist.
However, Koons has stated: "I am not interested in capitalism at all. I'm not interested in objects. I don't care about money. I'm interested in people, human desire, and aspiration, having daily interconnection with the people I value. I believe in experience, and having transcendence in your life."
Picture: Diamond (Blue), 1994-2005
Auctioned at Christie's New York, in 2007 for $11,801,000
Greeks believed that diamonds were the tears of gods, and Plato suggested that they were living celestial spirits embodied in stones, further adding to the mystique and power that surrounded the stone. In Roman literature, dated from the first century AD, Cupid's arrows were diamond-tipped. This visual language references today´s narration of love, procreation and commercially indicated in the minimal geometric forms and/or cuts of a diamond ring. The diamond is viewed as a classic symbol of love that represents light, permanence, and sincerity, it has been rooted in history and in the human DNA.
Koon's limited edition of the Diamond (Red) is composed of valuable Limoges porcelain. Its materiality echoes the subject of life and creation, through its use of clay (being the main ingredient of porcelain). With the medium of porcelain Koons makes yet once again a reference to the "creation of life from clay", the miraculous birth theme present in Christianity, mythology, and abundantly found in literature.
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Despite the ambiguity of the concept, the artist examines our natural desire for immortality in a playful manner, as exemplified in The Hours Spin Skull. The sculpture acts as a reminder that our existence on earth is transitory. The skull, whose eye sockets are inlaid with watch dials, reminds us of the impermanence of life and it invites and encourages us to meditate on the existential.
“I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid.”—Damien Hirst
In the Butterfly series, the artist, as a meticulous collector, depicts colourful dead Butterflies displayed against a contrasting black background. The artwork was inspired by a pursuit typical in Victorian times – butterfly collecting – a popular educational hobby for gentlemen and clergy.
"Everyone’s frightened of glass, everyone’s frightened of sharks, everyone loves butterflies."—Damien Hirst
Again, adopting the mantle of a collector, the artist has created large collage gloss paintings featuring butterfly wings, which are part of the Psalm series. These, as with his other works, aim to capture the beauty and to grasp and fix the ephemeral. Yet, the works conceal the strict relationship between beauty and death.
In Paper Kite Butterfly on Oleander, Hirst features his signature motif – the butterfly – alive in its natural surroundings, hanging from a beautiful, strikingly coloured blossom. In this, he has created an uplifting and celestial image that inspires childlike wonder in the face of such a beauty of nature. At the same time, however, it provokes fundamental questions about the meaning of life, a life which is characterized by death, and the fragility of biological existence.
“I love butterflies because when they are dead they look alive."—Damien Hirst
There is no imminent promise of salvation, no escape offered in these works. Those black pills, as in Dark Black Heaven, are as threatening as they are strangely attractive, a dark fatal allure which we already know leads to one ultimate destiny.
Hirst’s work questions the equivocal role of medicine. It can either take life and save life or destroy and restore. These pills are not a memento mori like the skulls or the butterflies. They are a symbol of resignation and alienation from life, and a fatal attraction towards death.
"It’s like God should be, the way they sell you the pills, the forms, the utopia, the hope, the cure. We’ve come a long way since quack doctors."—Damien Hirst
The pharmaceutical cabinets, as in Hirst’s work Utopia, question people´s complete reliance on medications and their power to heal, which fulfill the natural desire for immortality. However, the question is: Can drugs cure this problem, or can art?
On the other hand, Gold tears, which is part of the Utopia series, depicts rows of shiny diamonds on shelves covered with golden foil in front of a golden-beige background. The image is an intense vision of a golden cabinet filled with diamonds, a vision often associated with glorious eternity. But as always in Hirst’s art, the ambiguity is obvious – this cabinet points to the fact that behind all the shiny glittery surfaces there might be nothing, no meaning, and no soul. And hence the desire for eternity is less a promise than a condemnation.
"I can’t understand why most people believe in medicine and don’t believe in art, without questioning either."—Damien Hirst