“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea”
Here in North Devon the press has been all of a fizz in the last few months due to a gift to the town of Ilfracombe. Now, this fading and somewhat shabby (but loveable) Victorian seaside resort is not often in the news (well, not since William Shatner on BBC TV called it a town “laced with prostitution”) so when it was announced that world-renowned artist Damian Hirst wanted to bequeath one of his bronzes, well, that was a story.
Mr Hirst, probably the best-known of the YBAs (Young British Artists) of the nineties, has had a somewhat high profile in North Devon for several years since buying a family home here around a decade ago, donating millions to a local fee-paying school to rebuild it’s Art Department and also opening a restaurant in the Ilfracombe Harbour area.
These were all seen as beneficial additions to the rich tapestry of life we enjoy in these parts, but when Hirst offered a 65ft.(20m) bronze statue of a heavily pregnant (and naked) woman bearing aloft a sword and going by the name of Verity, well, that’s when the fur really started to fly. Ilfracombe Town Council held a lively meeting to discuss the offer and whether Verity would be a welcome adornment to the harbour wall, while around the town the local papers were stirring up opinions, objections and offence amongst the populace. There seemed to be a definite split between those who found the very idea of a naked female form completely unacceptable and those who frankly couldn’t give a ****. A few (notably Town Councillors it seems) felt that a considerably large and impressive art work from such a well-known artist would not only bring renown and prestige to the town but would also rejuvenate a flagging tourism industry and even possibly save the entire region from impending economic doom. So the ayes had it and the Council’s decision was to accept the lovely Verity and embrace her as the saviour of all (or something like that).
That’s more or less (probably less come to think of it) how Verity came to be arriving in Ilfracombe in the wee small hours of this morning before the sun was up, recumbent on the back of a huge truck, in all her burnished bronzeness and looking for all the world like she belonged on that harbour wall….at the edge of that carpark…..in that slightly dreary and seagull ridden town.
Just a teensy detail of which I was previously unaware, and I’m sure hoardes of naysayers were equally so:- on the right side of her body, Verity’s skin is peeled back to reveal her skull, breast tissue, thigh muscles and foetus etc. rather like those anatomical models you may have had in the science department at school. I personally think this takes nothing away from Verity’s charm, but have a niggling feeling that one or two people may find it distasteful.
Verity is presently in a secure location in Ilfracombe pending the attachment of her left forearm and sword. She will be fully assembled and erected on 17th/18th October 2012 and for the next 20 years (until Damian wants her back) will be the figurehead of this once and future glittering town.