Angry traders have condemned artist Damien Hirst for creating an ‘eyesore’ in the seaside town after buying three properties but leaving them empty for years.
The world’s richest living artist bought the properties on the prime seaside location in Ilfracombe, Devon, but they are all currently vacant.
Nick Waters, landlord of the Hip and Pistol pub and restaurant said traders were angry after the artist ‘abandoned’ the town.
Nick Waters, landlord at the Hip and Pistol pub, pointing at the empty premises owned by famous artist Damien Hirst
Turner-prize winning artist Damien Hirst bought the properties on the prime seaside location but they are all currently empty
He wants the artist to bring the shops – one of which used to be a gallery selling Hirst’s work until it shut last year – back into use or to put them up for sale so someone else can make use of them.
He said: ‘These shops are in the busiest part of the town, yet they’ve been shut for years.
‘I don’t understand how someone so rich and so famous can just leave them there doing nothing.
‘There are so many businesses who would snap them up, properties on the quay are at a premium.’
Number 8, 9, and 10 The Quay at Ilframcombe which are owned by artist Damien Hirst and are currently vacant
The Turner-prize winning artist Damien Hirst has a long-established connection with Ilfracombe.
As well as his restaurant at 11 The Quay, he also loaned Verity – the UK’s tallest statue – to the town back in 2012.
He also has a workshop at Mullacott Cross just outside Ilfracombe, and a home in nearby Combe Martin.
Mr Hirst also owns the three properties next to his 11 The Quay restaurant – numbers 8, 9 and 10 The Quay.
Number 10 The Quay, formerly housed the Other Criteria art gallery and shop, which is owned by Mr Hirst.
But the gallery closed in September last year, leaving the prominent outlet vacant with whited-out windows.
The ground floor premises at numbers 8 and 9 have been empty for several years.
Mr Waters, who has run the Hip and Pistol for a year and previously ran the Ship and Pilot pub nearby, said he couldn’t understand why Mr Hirst had decided to close his gallery and shop.
He said: ‘Over the past few years loads of art galleries have opened in the town and are doing really well.
‘I don’t know why someone with a massive statue just down the road would close a shop that was selling all of his own stuff.’
The landlord even went as far as describing the empty shops as an ‘eyesore’.
He added: ‘People use that word about other parts of the town, and although these buildings are well-maintained, they make the place look bad.
Damien Hirst, pictured at the opening of his exhibition No Love Lost. A spokesman for his company said the properties are under renovation with a view to them being leased in the future
‘If it were four shops in the high street that were vacant, the council or someone else would be doing something about it – so why not these?
‘The whole town is going through a real revival at the moment, it’s doing really well.
‘But something needs to be done – they either need to be re-opened, let out to someone who will put them to use or sold so someone else can do something with them.’
A spokesman for Mr Hirst’s company Science Ltd, said: ‘The properties are currently under renovation with a view to being leased in the future.’
A notice for a planning application has since been posted outside the properties owned by Mr Hirst.
The application requests the change of use of the ground floor of 9 The Quay, two doors down from Mr Hirst’s restaurant, from residential to retail.