Damien Hirst’s work heads to Wakefield for international festival

Several works by the hugely influential British artist Damien Hirst are to be put on show in Wakefield as part of this year’s inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International festival.

Four major works by the Turner Prize winning Hirst, who grew up in Leeds, are to be exhibited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

His works Charity, Myth, The Hat Makes the Man and The Virgin Mother will open to the public from April 13.

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Hirst’s Hymn and Anatomy of an Angel will be put on display in Leeds city centre and Black Sheep with Golden Horns will be in Leeds Art Gallery.

At YSP the four sculptures will be placed in the newly revived 18th-century Deer Park. The 10-metre tall The Virgin Mother will stand against the backdrop of the Lower Lake, a powerful presence in the landscape.

Referencing the stance of Degas’s Little Dancer of Fourteen Years and considered a female counterpart to Hymn, the sculpture’s cross-section reveals the foetus curled within the womb.

Charity, on display near the recently opened Weston building, is recognisable as based on Scope collection boxes which were commonly seen on British high streets between the 1960s and 1970s.

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A young girl wearing a calliper forlornly cradles a teddy bear and a donations box which reads ‘please give generously’. The work questions historic and outdated ways of depicting disability and seeking charity.

Outside The Weston, Myth presents a white unicorn with half of its skin flayed to reveal vibrant red, pink and yellow musculature and tissues.

Hirst often takes religious or mythical figures as his subjects, unpicking and disrupting their familiar narratives. Horses have been an artistic subject for millennia and, referencing this tradition, Hirst’s unicorn stands high on a classical plinth.

Back towards Lower Lake, The Hat Makes the Man is based on a 1920 collage of the same name by Surrealist artist Max Ernst.

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The sculptures on display in Leeds city centre will be positioned in well-known locations.

Standing at six metres high, the painted bronze sculpture Hymn is a monumental reinterpretation of an educational anatomical model intended for use by children, in which a cross-section reveals the internal organs of the male torso.

Anatomy of an Angel, which will be on display in the Victoria Quarter arcade in the city centre, is a marble work which references classical sculpture.

Leeds Art Gallery will exhibit Hirst’s Black Sheep with Golden Horns in the Arnold and Marjorie Ziff Gallery. Part of Hirst’s iconic formaldehyde series, the work features a black sheep with golden horns, positioned within a steel-framed vitrine.

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Damien Hirst said: “I’m so happy to have my work in and around Leeds. When I was growing up in the city, the Leeds Art Gallery was my way into art.

“I never thought I’d ever be famous or considered important or anything like that, but seeing paintings by people like John Hoyland, Francis Bacon, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi – alongside the aquarium and natural history stuff in the City Museum – opened my mind to art.

“The things I saw made me so excited for what art could be. If people feel anything like that when they see my work, then that’s the greatest thing you can hope for as an artist, and it’s a double excitement for me that there’ll be sculptures in the town as well as the gallery.

“The giant bronze sculptures at YSP are where they belong – they’re just made for that setting. I used to hang out a lot on Ilkley Moor and Otley Chevin, and I will always love the Yorkshire landscape.”

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Jane Bhoyroo, producer of YSI, said: “To have Damien involved in the festival is fantastic and especially because of his love for Yorkshire. He is another world-class artist who will be part of this ambitious inaugural exhibition across four amazing galleries and two cities. One of the aims of YSI is to engage a mass audience through sculpture and Damien’s works will play a key role in achieving this. YSI promises to be something special, memorable and game changing for Yorkshire’s growing art scene.”

Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds, attending Allerton Grange High School. He went on to study at Leeds College of Art (then Jacob Kramer College) in the early 1980s, as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore had done 60 years earlier.

He first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated the group exhibition ‘Freeze’, an exhibition of his own work and that of his fellow contemporaries at Goldsmiths’ College.

He has since become widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation and was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.

Hirst’s first solo exhibition in Yorkshire, the 2011 Artist Rooms at Leeds Art gallery, attracted 11,000 visitors in its first week.