SPECULATION is rife in Ilfracombe after a councillor publicly revealed that Damien Hirst now owns four adjoining properties on the town’s quay.
Ilfracombe town councillor Bert Gear told the council’s monthly meeting on MondayFeb 11 that the world’s richest living artist has now purchased 10 The Quay which currently houses the Driftwood Gallery.
Many residents think the artist is planning to open a new art gallery in the town.
Mr Hirst has owned 11 The Quay, which is run as a restaurant and bar, since 2000. He purchased the property for £185,000.
The artist also owns 8 The Quay, the former Captain’s Cabin record store, which he purchased in 2008 for £360,000.
In 2010 he applied to convert 8 The Quay into a restaurant but withdrew the plans a year later.
At Monday’s meeting Mr Gear said the artist also owns 9 and 10 The Quay which makes “a run of four shops in a row”.
The Driftwood Gallery at 10 The Quay, which was opened by Carol and Neil Easton in 2002, has announced on its website that it will be relocating and is promoting a sale which will run until tomorrow.
In a statement to the Journal gallery manager Sheila Shepherd said: “Driftwood Gallery has been in Ilfracombe for nearly 12 years.
“It was our first gallery and has led to a successful chain of galleries in the South West.
“We are relocating and will remain in Ilfracombe at a new premises which is being kept secret for the time being.
“We have not disclosed to anyone where this shall be, but want to assure all our clients that we shall inform all at the time of opening.”
Speaking after Monday night’s council meeting Mr Gear the gallery had been a great asset to the town.
He said: “I feel it was the turning point in the start of the regeneration of Ilfracombe and I will be sorry to see it go from the Harbour.
“I look forward to seeing what Mr Hirst has planned for his property and welcome his investment in the town.
“My only concern is that these properties don’t stay empty for too long.”
Ilfracombe town, district and county councillor Geoff Fowler, who is also chairman of the town’s Harbour Board, also welcomed Mr Hirst’s investment.
He said: “Quay Road has always been a focus for folk visiting our town and whatever his plans are I’m sure they will raise the profile even further.
“With Verity still attracting sightseers on a regular basis this strengthens our case to really push forward on both the Harbour Board and town council’s development strategy of encouraging the private sector to see us as a good place to invest.”
The Journal contacted Damien Hirst’s company Science Ltd but no one was available for comment.
Your Hirst thoughts:
MR Hirst’s latest acquisition has been a hot topic on the Journal’s Facebook page, with many people suggesting the artist is planning to open a new art gallery in the town.
PiXie DuSt said: “Are we all going to pretend to be surprised when he opens his art gallery? It’s no secret.”
Lynn Thorne said: “I’d be sad to see the Driftwood Gallery go.
“Ilfracombe needs more high quality shops like that, but I’m glad someone is investing in the town. Is it true Damien is going to open an art gallery?”
Kate Barnard said: “As long as he doesn’t do what a lot of owners do and buy property in ‘Combe then leave it empty or derelict for ever more.
“Just because he installed Verity does not make him the new messiah or are we so desperate for investment we applaud anyone?”
Claire Faulkner said: “If it stops anybody else opening shops selling tat that nobody wants and he’s putting money into the quay it can only be a good thing.
“There are plenty of people that own more than one property in Ilfracombe, why should it be any different for him?”
Helen Dedden said: “Once again thank you Mr Hirst for investing in our town.
“There will always be the moaners who can’t see past their own nose but I know I will amongst the majority who are pleased.”
John Shapland said: “It’s just Monopoly. He can now trade these in for a gurt hotel – look out Mayfair.”
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