Pop Culture

$100 million is a lot of bones for skull artwork

A diamond encrusted platinum skull designed by the British artist Damien Hirst has been sold to an investment group for $100 million, a spokeswoman for his London gallery said Thursday.

Hirst will be allowed to exhibit the work in an upcoming international exhibition under the deal, White Cube spokeswoman Sara Macdonald said.

“The investment group anticipates selling it within the next few years,” Macdonald said. She refused to disclose the identity of the buyers, as they had asked to remain anonymous.

Macdonald said Hirst retained a stake in the work. She would not give details on the size of his stake but said he would sell his share when the piece is next put up for sale.

Hirst had the glittering piece, which was modeled on a real skull, built from 32 platinum plates and 8,601 diamonds, using a hand laser to cut thousands of tiny diamond settings.

The work has a 52-carat pink diamond at its center and is studded with 14 pear-shaped diamonds.

Hirst said the piece, called “For the Love of God,” was meant to highlight the transience of human existence. Critics called the work flamboyant and showy, but that was business as usual for Hirst, who has consistently courted controversy — and huge sums of cash.

A leading member of the so-called Young British Artists, a group that dominated the British art scene in the 1990s, Hirst is perhaps best known for his work involving slicing, dicing and pickling animals and fish in formaldehyde.

Hirst bought the skull used in his latest work from a taxidermy shop in Islington, north London. Carbon dating suggests the skull is from a European male in his 30s who lived sometime between 1720 and 1810.