Damien Hirst homecoming announced for Yorkshire sculpture festival

Artist grew up in Leeds and says he followed in the footsteps of Hepworth and Moore

Damien Hirst is returning to the area where he grew up and went to art college with seven sculptures installed across Leeds and the Yorkshire countryside.

The inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International festival on Wednesday announced plans to display in Leeds and Wakefield provocative works such as The Virgin Mother, a 10-metre high surgically flayed pregnant woman, and Black Sheep with Golden Horns, part of Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde series.

Hirst grew up in Leeds and followed in the giant footsteps of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore by going to Leeds Arts University, then called Jacob Kramer College.

He recalled happy, important visits to Leeds Art Gallery. “I never thought I’d ever be famous or considered important or anything like that, but seeing paintings by people like John Hoyland, Francis Bacon, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi – alongside the aquarium and natural history stuff in the City Museum – opened my mind to art.

“The things I saw made me so excited for what art could be. If people feel anything like that when they see my work, then that’s the greatest thing you can hope for as an artist.”

Hirst said it was a “double excitement” to him that the festival will place his works in both Leeds Art Gallery and the city centre.

Hirst’s sculpture Hymn
Hirst’s sculpture Hymn (pictured) will be installed in Leeds city centre. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

His sheep in formaldehyde will be in the art gallery’s Ziff room of Victorian paintings while outdoors in well-known city centre locations will be Hymn, a six metre high reinterpretation of a child’s anatomical model, and the marble work The Anatomy of an Angel.

The Virgin Mother will be on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) along with Charity, based on the Scope collection boxes of the 1960s and 1970s; Myth, a flayed white unicorn; and The Hat Makes the Man, based on Max Ernst’s 1920 collage of the same name.

Hirst said: “The giant bronze sculptures at YSP are where they belong – they’re just made for that setting. I used to hang out a lot on Ilkley Moor and Otley Chevin, and I will always love the Yorkshire landscape.”

The artist will be part of what is billed as the UK’s largest dedicated sculpture festival, a collaboration between Leeds and Wakefield and the galleries that form the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle – the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

• Yorkshire Sculpture International festival runs 22 June-29 September


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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