So what do you do if you are the richest artist - read "rather talentless self-publicist trying his best to cash in on his pseudo-controversial reputation" - in Britain with your heydays firmly behind you but a bulging bank account (or two?)?
You buy yourself a town.
Or at least, this is what it's starting to feel like with Damien Hirst and Ilfracombe, in North Devon.
I wrote about the quite horrid Verity in a previous blog; Hirst has also owned a restaurant on Quay Road, Number 11, The Quay, since 2000. Now, he has got his hands on no less than four properties in the harbour (the lovely Driftwood gallery, the first in a series of art galleries to open under the same name in the South West, is having to relocate somewhere else in town), and is also planning a - yes, of course, controversial! - housing estate in the fields opposite the Tesco supermarket (more on this HERE).
It looks like councillors have been dragging their feet, but don't fret, Hirst will triumph in the end. Money - and celebrity - talks, and Ilfracombe has been in dire need of regeneration since the railway was scrapped in 1970.
True, Hirst could be seen as some kind of "saviour", although things are not as simple as it seems (see HERE for an interesting comment on the situation).
Most certainly, something seems to be happening: art galleries are popping up everywhere around the town, and the pub chain Wetherspoon is building a - completely inappropriate - "futuristic" establishment (they have pulled down the wonderful old hotel that used to stand there!).
On the up side, one of the new galleries is located on the high street and is definitely worth a visit: the Jessica Dove gallery (a good write-up about the gallery can be found HERE). Set up by a former artist and art teacher who was born in the town before going to live and work in London, the gallery is bright and packed full of very interesting works. I particularly loved the sculptures by Jessica's husband, Stanley Dove, and my new favourite sculptor, Philip Wakeham - see his work on his Beautiful If Oblique website. His sculptures are simply stunning; they have a delicate, mythical, haunting quality. Perfect inspiration for a novel!
More on Ilfracombe and North Devon in the forthcoming days.
Now is time to get back into things after a few days away!
I think therefore I write.
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