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Architecture & design

Skull style

— April 2014

Article read level: Art lover

Associated media

D*Face, Two Banded Skipper Flutterbie (2011). Taxidermy insects and pygmy skull © The artist

‘Designer skulls’? Despite the subject matter, this is ‘a stunningly beautiful publication’ says Karen Hasin-Bromley

Skulls in Contemporary Art and Design, by Patrice Farameh

This is a large coffee-table book, weighing more than 3.5 kilos, packaged as a piece of contemporary art and design in itself.  It is presented in a slip case designed by  Lucien Pellat-Finet,  featuring a cut-out skull in neon shades of orange, green and yellow. The design on the front cover repeats the slip case’s ‘dayglow’ skull on one side and has a black 3D cut-out skull on the reverse. This design theme continues with abstract neon coloured endpapers and black page edges. Inside there is a contrast between brilliant white text pages and pages with rich deep black backgrounds. Add to this the beautiful photographs of the ‘designer skulls’ and you have an incredible production. It’s a stunningly beautiful publication.

 The content covers the skull as it has been used  in art, design, fashion and jewellery. Perhaps the most famous contemporary skull, Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull, For the Love of God, appears in the art section, which also features Daniel Clarke’s My Trembling Hand (2001), a relief in limewood of a skull resting on a hand.  The layout starts each new artist with a double page spread – the photograph of the work on the left, the text on the right. The text includes a biographical paragraph and comments by the artist on their work and their thoughts on the subject matter.  The large, sumptuous photographs, together with the information provided on the artist, gives the reader a lot to think about when examining the works. 

The pieces chosen for the book are hugely varied.  The art section includes works in embroidery (Angelo Filomeno’s Ferocious Beats (Female and Male) (2005), Skulls made from cassette tapes by Brian Dettimer (Skull 7 (Women of Pop) (2006)) and even skull-shaped bookcases by James Hopkins. There is a photograph of Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones showing off his skull ring. In the design section there are skull-decorated chocolates (Chocolate + Spice Life is Sweet (2011)), Gio Pagani’s wallpaper (Collection for Wall and Deco, Skulls (2011); Trevor Jackson’s skull teapots (The Death of Tradition) and skull-shaped chairs by Valdi Rapaport (‘Vanitas Collection’) and Pool Souviens toi que tu vas mourir (Remember that you’ll Die) (2011).  Fashion designers include Alexander McQueen and his Union Jack box clutchbag with Swarovski crystal skull clasp, his skull-patterned scarf and skull-handled umbrella.  There are images of John Richmond’s King Rocker T-shirt and scarf design and his dress print design Persona Non Grata Repeat (2008) and Kermit Tesoro’s Impaled (2011), his limited edition 6.5-9 inch heels decorated with a skull.  In the section there is Lucien Pellat-Finet’s watch Spring/Summer 2006 – steel with diamond bezel and dial (10.5 carats); and Vivienne Westwood’s Skeleton Earrings.

This is a captivating book – an amazing selection of ways in which the skull has been adapted and integrated into every imaginable object.

Skulls in Contemporary Art and Design,  curated by Patrice Farameh, The Curated Collection is published by Farameh Media LLC 2012. Hard Back with slip case, £90.00. ISBN 0983083134



Karen Hasin Bromley
Independent art historian

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