Until the end of September, there is a major international sculpture festival taking place across Leeds and Wakefield. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Hepworth, the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery are all hosting exhibitions and there are installations in the city centres.
The sculptor, Damien Hirst, grew up and went to art college in Leeds. He has made his name with shocking and controversial works and the pieces displayed in Leeds are not for the squeamish, it has to be said! The huge painted bronze 'Hymn' has been placed right in the middle of Briggate, Leeds main shopping street. 20ft (6m) high, it depicts a man's body with the skin stripped away to reveal the internal organs. Not especially what I want to see when I'm looking for new jeans in M&S! Apparently, it is based on a children's toy anatomy set and Hirst was sued in 2000 by the toy's manufacturer for breach of copyright and settled out of court. It didn't stop him selling 'Hymn' for a reputed £1m.
Meanwhile, 'Anatomy of an Angel', a marble angel, based on a classical sculpture 'L'Hirondelle' by Alfred Boucher but again with her skin peeled away to reveal bones and organs, is in the upmarket Victoria Arcade. I found her slightly more palatable... but I'd rather see the Boucher! (Boucher himself is no longer alive to sue!)
Then, in the Art Gallery, there is apparently 'Black Sheep with Golden Horns', one of his animals in formaldehyde pieces, though I have not been to see that yet (and I'm not sure if I will!).
I know Leonardo da Vinci was making anatomical drawings way back in the 1500s - but at the time that was pioneering work. He was making new discoveries by dissecting bodies, observing and drawing them closely. Personally, I don't consider Hirst (and others like him, who came to fame in the 1980s/90s) to be a true artist, just a showman with a talent for publicity and plagiarism. Hirst is apparently 'the richest living artist', worth over £200m. His works are mostly not even constructed by him; he has a studio/factory full of assistants, making them - but the debate rages on! Give me Magdalene Odundo's ceramics (see HERE), anytime, over a Damien Hirst piece.