Damien Hirst’s latest piece, a 20.25m (66ft) bronze artwork - known as Verity - is being installed in the Devon seaside town of Ilfracombe. But how will the town - so intent on thrusting itself into the new world - react to the public art?
Traditionally a sleepy seaside resort, with a centre-right leaning political demographic, Ilfracombe isn’t quite used to forward thinking artworks, but they’ve got a 20 year loan of Verity, the nude, naked and pregnant statue from Damien Hirst, so they better get used to it. Hirst, who lives locally and owns a restaurant in the area, has displayed his work in many locales, but is usually found at top galleries, like his recent retrospective at the Tate Modern in London. The statue’s presence in Ilfracombe as caused quite the debate, but councillor Mike Edmunds, who can see the new arrival from his bedroom window, think it’s a good thing. "We need to have a second string to our bow," he said. "We've relied, as a holiday resort, on our natural charm and beauty, but that's not enough in the present day. Hotels are closing, so we've got to do something to boost the economy and we're looking at the arts as a way of encouraging visitors."
There has, however, been local opposition; Chloe Hubbard, editor of of the North Devon Journal, says her letters page has been split over the issue. "We first reported on it eight months ago and we've had letters every single week. I haven't known any subject to have such a long-running interest. Even now Verity's arrived we are still getting protest letters, so people are clearly riled.