It may surprise some, or perhaps it will not, that I think this is clearly Hirst’s greatest work and possibly the greatest work of art of all time.
I suppose if I had the opportunity to closely interact with the piece, the first thing I would do is take the jaw off and flip the cranium so that I could look up into the braincase. My understanding is that the piece was made with a cast as the base for the jewels, and that the cast came from a real skull the artist (ahem) scared up in the flea markets and costermonger stalls of Airstrip One.
I see, Montresor, some of the work’s aesthetic aims as:
to create the most impossibly highly valued work of art ever
to present a grinning selfportrait of capital at work
to provoke examination of the iconography of the skull (my favorite!)
My aim in flipping the head and removing the jaw would be to examine the delicacy and faithfulness of the cast’s re-rendering of the initial bone’s nasal cavities. The bone inside the nose is impossibly delicate and filigreed, layers weaving and dancing like flower petals. The degree to which this post-Faberge egg cup proffers that delicacy and fineness might provide a viewer with a measure by which the craft and craft value in this presentation toy is genuinely present.
My guess is that the nasal cavities are smoothed and not presented with delicacy, as the piece does not appear to be about the heritage traditions of craft-work pieces created to legitimize wealth in a domestic context. Instead it appears to be about craft in this time, and the importance of delicacy has passed, I think.