Exclusive interview: Damien Hirst talks about his Ilfracombe statue Verity and his love of North Devon.
DAMIEN Hirst has spoken of his own excitement and anticipation following the arrival of his Verity sculpture in Ilfracombe.
In an exclusive interview, the artist told the North Devon Gazette of his hopes for the 20.25 metre bronze statue and how much he was looking forward to seeing her in place on Ilfracombe Pier.
“I am really excited and can’t wait to see it in place,” he told the Gazette.
“I’ve lived in Combe Martin for 18 years and love the area. My kids were born in the Barnstaple hospital and I have my own restaurant that I’m proud of in Ilfracombe.
“I hope it will excite the locals, although I know everybody won’t love it, but I hope it will bring more tourists to the area and increase business for the local people.”
The much-debated artwork, which depicts a naked pregnant woman holding aloft a sword and clutching the scales of justice, arrived by lorry just after midnight on Monday, almost complete aside from her sword arm and plinth.
She is now safely locked inside a secure compound and awaiting assembly prior to being hoisted into place some time between Sunday and Wednesday, dependent on weather conditions, although the Gazette understands Tuesday morning is likely.
It is then thought a further week will be spent working on the sculpture before it is completed, making it the tallest statue in the UK, 10 inches higher than Anthony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North.
Damien Hirst’s first ever major art project in his adopted home of North Devon has taken almost two years of planning and production.
It was after initially talking to harbourmaster Rob Lawson that Mr Hirst said he decided to propose the loan of Verity to the town.
The offer was made to lend her to North Devon Council – upon whose land she will stand – for 20 years, with an option of possibly extending this.
Standing at 20.25 metres – or just under 66 and a half feet – Verity was made in more than 40 individual bronze castings at Pangolin Editions foundry in Gloucestershire. The sculpture is an edition of Hirst’s earlier bronze Virgin Mother created in 2005.
“I had made the sculpture of the pregnant woman already and it was based on the Degas ballerina, and for Ilfracombe in the harbour, I wanted to take this existing sculpture and change it to make it stand for something important - for truth,” Mr Hirst explained.
“After looking at the statue of liberty and the justice figure on the old bailey and many others, I came up with Verity.”
Since news of the proposal became public, debate has raged across North Devon, many believing the sculpture will provide a huge boost to Ilfracombe and the surrounding area as it puts North Devon the national art map.
Others argued the naked pregnant figure was inappropriate, or even obscene and some objected to the design – featured in other Hirst works – showing skin cut away to reveal musculature, skeleton and her unborn foetus.
Mr Hirst continued by describing the assembly process:
“She’ll be arriving onto the pier side in sections where she’ll be worked on by my team, in a compound, lying on her side,” he said.
“She’ll be assembled into one big piece, patinated and then hoisted into her position.
“Then there’s more work to do finishing her off, tidying up the site and sorting the lights out, but I am hoping she will be finished completely by the end of the month.”
The bronze parts were cast in pieces, then worked and reassembled around a one piece steel frame. The sword and upper arm is a single piece of glass fibre reinforced polymer.
The entire piece underwent wind tunnel testing to ensure it was capable of withstanding high winds and sea spray.
Love her or hate her, now people across North Devon are waiting to see what Verity will really look like once she is stood upon the pier gazing out to sea.
“As I said, I know it’s not for everyone, but I really hope that over time it will become accepted by all of the community in Ilfracombe and will benefit the town and surrounding areas,” said Mr Hirst.
Check out progress on the sculpture’s installation at www.damienhirst.com.