Damien Hirst is one of the wealthiest artists alive, but now is he going to be a property developer? According to a new report by Art Newspaper, The UK’s most expensive living artist‘s plans to build an entire town in the British countryside and from legal standpoint, he has already received the approval of the local council.
The artist first announced his plans to launch this unusual project in 2012, which would see the construction of 750 homes as well as a school, playgrounds, stores, office buildings, and a health center. The development would lie on the outskirts of the town of Ilfracombe, a seaside resort in north Devon, and is being called the Southern Extension project.
Hirst plans to incorporate environmentally-friendly architectural elements such as rooftop wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, and high-tech insulation in the buildings’ design. In 2012, architect Mike Rundell, a representative for the artist, told the Telegraph that Hirst already owns 40 percent of the Southern Extension land. Hirst also has a studio, restaurant, and several other properties in Ilfracombe.
Mallika Rao of Huffington Post believes Hirst sees Ilfracombe as mere setting for temples to himself. Of the many institutions he’s already backed in the town, few if any seem to take residents into account — unless everyone in Ilfracombe is as obsessed with Hirst as he seems to be.
Southern Extension is not Hirst’s first controversial project in Ilfracombe. In 2012, the artist installed Verity, a 67-foot-tall bronze statue of a pregnant woman with half of her skin peeled back to reveal her skull, muscles, and unborn fetus, on the town’s harbor. The piece doesn’t seem to have inspired the same level of outcry as a similar statue by the artist (in which the internal organs were painted red) that real estate mogul Aby Rosen recently agreed to place in a less prominent position on his Old Westbury, New York, property, but has met with less than universal acclaim among Ilfracombe locals.
Whether the new project will get more positive reaction from the local community or the art world in general, is something which remains to be seen.