By Tamera Adams

Not only does the work of Damian Hirst raise eyebrows, but his death- and blood-themed designs tend to raise the philosophical question, "What is art?" In defense of the focal point of his new exhibit, a diamond-encrusted platinum cast of an 18th-century, 38-year-old male human skull, Hirst says he's no longer concerned with the answer to the question.

The skull's first public viewing was held at London's White Cube Gallery recently. Priced at $98 million, the piece is made of 8,601 flawless, ethically-sourced diamonds. Smack dab in the middle of its forehead is one large pink diamond valued at more than $8 million.

The artist wants it known that if a private buyer purchases this piece, one of the conditions may be that it continues to be available for public display. He feels the skull "gives people hope." Regardless of the carat count, "hope" is not what comes to mind when I view a human skull with the natural teeth still in it. But art is subjective.

Hirst says his creation is proof that we aren't going to live forever, yet it has a "feeling of victory over death." Since "Diamonds are forever" according to the De Beers-coined phrase, are the diamonds on the skull symbolic of victory? Hirst might not agree with my interpretation, but hey, some don't even agree that this is art.

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