“A modern allegory of truth and justice”
A short while ago I blogged here the arrival in Ilfracombe of a 20 metre high statue, a gift from the artist Damien Hirst, which goes by the name of Verity. With the sword and scales of justice in her grasp (not reptilian scales on her back as I read with disbelief on a WordPress blog which shall remain nameless) this formidable female now stands guard at the entrance to Ilfracombe Harbour gazing out across the channel towards South Wales, atop a plinth of concrete law books.
Verity’s anticipated arrival caused the residents of Ilfracombe to voice their various opinions in the local media, and the following are some of my favourite quotes:-
- “I’m starting to think of it as a modern take on the Statue of Liberty..”
- “I don’t like it and it’s bigger than I expected.”
- “Ilfracombe will be a laughing stock.”
- “They would be better off dumping it off the edge of the harbour.”
- “..people in Ilfracombe should feel flattered that a world-renowned artist considers Ilfracombe to be worthy of his attention.”
- “..I am a bit impressed.”
- “Why did he have to make her naked? Pregnant women wear clothes most of the time.”
- “It will encourage teenage pregnancies.
Meanwhile, humorous poet Pam Ayres posted this on Twitter – “The residents of Ilfracombe, How they must have sinned, A seaside first by Damien Hurst, A pregnant woman, skinned. A curse has fell on Ilfracombe, I see the tourists clear, From many lands, all holding hands, And jumping off the pier.”
Hirst has said that Verity and her “sisters” (my name for them) Virgin Mother l, ll and lll are based upon the bronze statue “Little Dancer of fourteen years” by Edgar Degas, famous for his studies of ballet dancers. As for the “sisters”, the first was installed at Lever House, New York (a multi-tenant office block incorporating a gallery space) in 2005, the second in the forecourt of The Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2006, and the third (in lurid technicolour) on the harbour wall at Fontvieille, Monaco in 2010. They are all about 10 metres tall; Verity’s raised sword makes her double this, though the body itself appears to be of the same proportions.
At midday today I went down to the harbour to see for myself and was overwhelmed to see hundreds of others there photographing Verity, wandering around the streets, eating and drinking in the sunshine or just standing in awe. All those people will have had to pay to park their cars, and I’m sure most will make a day of it and wander around the High Street too or at least buy an icecream, a bundle of fish and chips or a pot of whelks. The arrival of Verity is definitely something positive for Ilfracombe; she is already famous around the world. I bumped into a friend while I was taking pictures and he told me his brother had seen Verity on the front page of his local newspaper yesterday under the headline “Womb With a View”; his brother lives in Cape Town.