“Diamonds never lie” Shirley Bassey sang in the opening track of 71’s James Bond movie “Diamonds are forever”. Diamonds – ultimate symbol of class, eternity and truth. It is this notion of truth which Belgian Diamond trade monopolist de Beers is promoting as the essence of the natural diamonds they are mining in Africa. Their business is increasingly endangered by manufactured gems. In the words of Jef Van Royen, official representative of the diamond industry in Belgium:
“If people really love each other, then they give each other the real stone,” he says, during an interview at council headquarters on the Hoveniersstraat in Antwerp. “It is not a symbol of eternal love if it is something that was created last week.” (from “The New Diamond Age”, an amazing article in Wired mag)
Damien Hirst’s work “For the Love of God” isn’t that much about truth and eternity, but rather wealth and power. It is supposed to be the most expensive artwork in the world: “For the Love of God” is a skull cast in platinum encased with 8500 diamonds. Damien says:
“I just want to celebrate life by saying, to hell with death. What better way of saying that by taking the ultimate symbol of death and covering it in the ultimate symbol of luxury, desire and decadence?”
De Beers contacted Vik Muniz, what he’d do with 10 Million Diamonds. His answer: “I thought doing something gross or disgusting would be too obvious, so I did something very glamorous. The idea is that people would buy it as a social experience, since having pictures of diamonds gives people the impression of having diamonds themselves.” So look at the above images again – do you feel it? I think it is quite the opposite – the glam of female movie stars multiplied with the glitz of diamonds results rather in desire than the satisfaction of ownership.
And finally the next layer of falsification and abstraction – images of diamonds which never existed, and the reason why I researched diamond imagery. Darrel and me have been searching for the right visual language for the a101 project at my office. As the project is ultimately about money and power, we wanted an urban plan made of diamonds.
Update: I’ve found some images and a making-of of Damien Hirst’s Diamond skull:
see supertouchblog’s making of and greg’s post on the skull’s costing and the full flickr photo set.