Love Hirst, hate Hirst, it seems we can’t simply ignore Hirst

Damien Hirst's statue 'Hymn' is unveiled outside NUA. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Damien Hirst's statue 'Hymn' is unveiled outside NUA. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

How do you know when a piece of art works? Is it when people who don't normally talk about the subject, suddenly have an opinion, even if they are expressing disgust about the piece in question?

Perhaps it's when someone previously unconnected and uninterested to that world is prepared to take a walk out of their way to go and look at it?

I think the answer is that a bit of both can contribute to whether we class art to be effective or not.

I am of course referring to this week's big city talking point – the erection of Damien Hirst's 20ft Hymn sculpture outside one of the Norwich University of Arts building.

If you've missed it (to be honest how could you?) Hirst's £2m piece of work, a massive version of the anatomical torso models from science in school, has definitely split opinion.


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I've read comment after comment of people calling it a 'monstrosity', questioning why it's in Norwich and even labelling it a waste of time and money bringing it here in the first place.

However, I think those people who doubt it being brought to the city are missing the point. As, whether they like it or not, at least they are talking about it. At least they've been moved enough to express an opinion on it. At least they've felt it, connected with it and lived it. And isn't that also what good art is about?

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I might not be a fan of the design (for what it's worth I'm not sure about Hirst's polka dot work either), but I love the fact it's got so many people talking and added character and vibrancy to that part of the city.

I was the one who decided, after a meeting at the Cathedral, to go out of my way and look at it on Wednesday morning. While there I think I enjoyed studying other people's reaction to the sculpture, more than the sculpture itself.

Complete strangers were commenting about it to each other, a young Mum was trying to explain it to her open mouthed and confused toddler and every single person, without fail, who walked past it, couldn't help but look at it.

So love it or hate it, it would seem we simply can't ignore it.

And isn't that also what good art is about?

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