Contemporary artist Damien Hirst is anything but scared of death. A list of his collection of artwork reads like a kunstkammer of mortal symbolism: platinum skulls, visceral depictions of human organs, dead animals, and so on. So his recent collaboration with online luxury retailer Just One Eye and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s fashion line The Row produced, unsurprisingly, a twisted take on backpacks and some of his own masterpieces.
Hirst designed a $55,000 black patent leather Nile crocodile backpack studded with with numerous unusable prescription pills that will be available in limited quantities beginning Dec. 12. Other designs have small gold or multicolored dots, large gold or multicolored dots, and black and grey pills. Hirst will determine how much of the proceeds from sales of the 12 bags will be donated to UNICEF.
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The backpack, as head-scratching of a piece of art as it is, is a relatively faithful representation of both Hirst and the Olsen twins’ aesthetics. The body of the bag itself is the same as The Row’s infamous $39,000 crocodile backpack that flew off of Barneys’ virtual and in-store shelves. Each bag is crafted in Italy and includes features like an internal detachable handle, adjustable canvas straps, internal zip-fastening, slit pockets, small gold-plated brass feet at base, a metal mirror plate and case, and designer-stamped gold-plated brass hardware signed by Hirst.
The pills are all Hirst. He famously set an auction record for the most expensive work of art by a living artist in June 2007, when his Lullaby Spring, a steel cabinet with 6,136 pills, sold for $19.2 million to the Emir of Qatar. More recently, eight international Gagosian galleries showcased 331 of his spot paintings, one of which is called “LSD.” The dazzlingly simple dotted canvases have become something of a staple of his; the exhibition garnered widespread and mixed commentary on what he has called a vision of an alternate reality. The paintings’ equal amounts of praise and condemnation drew attention to his message and the idea of endless sets of patterns. Similarly, the pill-accented backpack builds on the implications of prevalent designer drugs in luxurious, and, of course, wallet-stretching fashion.