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“The Hirst effect” proves a great boost for Norwich and north Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 10:40 15 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:44 15 April 2018

Artist Damien Hirst inside the main house at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

Artist Damien Hirst inside the main house at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

His controversial art may split opinion but the arrival of Damien Hirst’s work in Norwich and north Norfolk has definitely proven a boost for the county.

Hymn by Damien Hirst outside Norwich University of the Arts in Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYHymn by Damien Hirst outside Norwich University of the Arts in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The world famous artist’s work has been shown at prestigious venues across the globe and his latest exhibition - Colour Space Paintings and Outdoor Sculptures - opened at Houghton Hall, near Fakenham, on March 25 and runs until July 15.

Robert Miller, estate manager and director at Houghton Hall, said the show had been proving extremely popular, attracting about 500 visitors a day which was about triple what the hall would usually expect.

He said the exhibition was appealing to a wider audience, with many more families and people in their 20s and 30s visiting Houghton to see the exhibition which has also caught the attention of people overseas.

“We’ve had people coming from all over, far and wide, coming from London, a lot from Norfolk and East Anglia, and a lot of international visitors from across Europe. He does have an enormous following,” Mr Miller said.
“I think people have been challenged and interested. It’s extraordinary to have Damien Hirst, one of the best contemporary artists in the world, here in our county.”

Hymn by Damien Hirst outside Norwich University of the Arts in Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYHymn by Damien Hirst outside Norwich University of the Arts in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Meanwhile Damien Hirst’s 20ft high work Hymn - a huge sculpture of a human torso - has been causing a stir ever since it was installed outside Norwich University of the Arts in the city’s St Georges Street.

Neil Powell, Norwich University of the Arts’ pro-vice chancellor, said: “Walk down St Georges Street at any time of day and you’ll now see people of all ages stopping to talk about Hymn. There are families and friends taking selfies, and parents having their first conversations about anatomy with children who seem to visit Hymn with glee.

“But what’s also happening is a discussion about art. Whether people like it or not, Hymn has succeeded in starting conversations about art and its role in society and the life of a city. That’s precisely what we hoped when we started discussions about bringing Hirst’s work to Norwich.”

Damien Hirst at Houghton Hall: Colour Space Paintings and Outdoor Sculptures runs until July 15. For more information, including opening times and how to book tickets, visit www.houghtonhall.com

Spot paintings by Damien Hirst on display at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian BurtSpot paintings by Damien Hirst on display at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

Hymn is on display in St Georges Street, in Norwich, until mid July.

More views on “the Hirst Effect”

• Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, said responses on social media showed the Hymn sculpture was attracting lots of people’s attention.

'The Virgin Mother' by Damien Hirst on display at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt'The Virgin Mother' by Damien Hirst on display at Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

“As with all art it is a polarising thing and subjective, but it seems to have got people talking and we know that a lot of people have been to see the sculpture. We think something of this nature is really positive for the city. We supported the application because we think having artists like Damien Hirst on display raises our cultural reputation on a national and international stage.”

• Mel Cook, Visit Norwich’s interim head of tourism, said the sculpture gave potential visitors a specific reason why they should visit Norwich now rather than wait for a later date.

“Something like this in the city centre is always very good for tourism because, for us, it gives us a reason to talk again about the city centre other than what’s here all the time.”

She added: “In the first week the Hirst sculpture was installed, the City Hosts had lots of people asking how to get to St Georges Street.”

'Legend' and 'Myth' by Damien Hirst on display inside the grounds of Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt'Legend' and 'Myth' by Damien Hirst on display inside the grounds of Houghton Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

• Rowan Whiteside, marketing and communications officer for nearby Norwich Playhouse, said: “We’re so delighted to have such a significant piece of art just across the river from the Playhouse. It’s been great to see so many people, from little kids, to art students, to professionals, engage with Hymn and visit the area.”

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