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Visitor numbers for the first-ever major, free public display of works by the internationally renowned artist Damien Hirst at Leeds Art Gallery have topped 11,000 people in the first week of the exhibition.
The exhibition, which opened on July 15, has surpassed all expectations attracting more visitors in the first week than any other week in 2011 so much so that the ‘magic eye’ counter which records visitor numbers has struggled to keep up.
The eagerly anticipated exhibition, sponsored by Leeds-based national law firm Walker Morris, will run at the art gallery managed by Leeds City Council on The Headrow until Sunday 30 October and is part of the national ARTIST ROOMS programme, which sees collections of modern and contemporary art held by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland going on display around the country thanks to support from the Art Fund, Britain’s major art charity.
The items on display reflect the development of Hirst’s career from his student days which began at Leeds College of Art and Design to his later works after he had established himself as one of the world’s highest-profile artists.
Alongside the iconic ‘Away from the Flock’, one of Hirst’s signature pieces of animals suspended in formaldehyde which shot him to international prominence in the early 1990s, the exhibition also features a large cabinet piece ‘Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology’ (2000), ‘Monument to the Living and the Dead’ (2006), a large ‘butterfly’ painting and a spot painting from 1994.
The key ideas which have underpinned Hirst’s career – birth, illness, death and religion – will all be identifiable in the exhibition, which has been boosted by items on loan from private collections including ‘Anatomy of an Angel’ carved from carrara marble, and ‘He Tried to Internalise Everything’ from the Arts Council Collection. Hirst’s recent work is also included as A Poison Painting diptych from Hirst’s ‘Poison’ series from 2010 which is also on display.
In addition to the ARTIST ROOMS display, a world-first sees items from Hirst’s London restaurant ‘Pharmacy’ being exhibited. The Notting Hill restaurant, which was open from 1998 to 2003, was co-owned by Hirst who embedded his art in all aspects of the interior design.
Following the closure of Pharmacy the contents were dispersed through a Sotheby’s sale but in a major coup elements of the restaurant have now been brought back together to be shown as a gallery display for the first time ever as part of the Leeds exhibition.
Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:
“We always knew that hosting these works by Damien Hirst at Leeds Art Gallery was going to be really popular and it is fantastic that so many people have already come along to see the exhibition.
“We hope to see many more people come and take a look in the coming weeks, and we are especially pleased to share this success with Walker Morris who have provided invaluable support as exhibition sponsors.”
Walker Morris partner Debbie Jackson said:
“Walker Morris has over 20 years of history of sponsoring the arts at every level, from the grass-roots to the internationally acclaimed, and a vital part of that is helping bring the works of some of the most famous and renowned artists to the widest possible audience.
“So its is extremely satisfying to see that visitor numbers for the Damien Hirst exhibition have attracted so many visitors in the first week. There is clearly a genuine interest by the people of Leeds in the works of an artist who spent his formative years in the city and as a firm we are delighted that we have been able to play our part in making this outstanding exhibition happen.”
The firm’s latest arts sponsorship follows on from its successful initiative in 2006 which brought the Saatchi’ Gallery’s ‘Triumph of Painting’ exhibition to Leeds Art Gallery, an event which broke all visitor records at the time.
ARTIST ROOMS is jointly owned by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland and was established through The d’Offay Donation by collector Anthony d’Offay in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments. ARTIST ROOMS On Tour is an inspired partnership with the Art Fund – the fundraising charity for works of art, making available the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international contemporary art to galleries throughout the UK.
To find out more information about ARTIST ROOMS On Tour visit www.artfund.org/artistrooms. To see the full ARTIST ROOMS collection visit www.tate.org.uk/artistrooms and www.nationalgalleries.org/artistrooms
For more information on Leeds Art Gallery visit the website at www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery