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Time for Damien Hirst cows to come home from Devon
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Amelia Marriette in the Spanish Barn
Amelia Marriette in front of Mother and Child, Divided

Almost 25,000 people have taken advantage of a rare opportunity to see a controversial piece of art which has been on show in Torbay over the summer.

A total of 24,146 people came to Torre Abbey's Spanish Barn to see Damien Hirst's Mother and Child, Divided.

It comprises a cow and a calf, each cut in half and preserved in glass-walled tanks in a formaldehyde solution.

"The response has been very powerful," said Amelia Marriette, the abbey's keeper of art.

"It has been wonderful to work with the Tate and the Arts Council Collection to bring world-class art to the bay," said Amelia.

The work - which weighs 6.5 tonnes (the weight of a London Routemaster bus) - was on show as part of a free exhibition at the Spanish Barn.

It was created for exhibition at the 1993 Venice Biennale and was subsequently the focal point of the 1995 Turner Prize at Tate Britain - then The Tate Gallery.

That was the same year Hirst - who has a house in north Devon - won the prize.

The work was lent to Torbay Council by Tate and the Arts Council Collection and was on show until 30 August 2010 and Dave Butt - the Torbay Council cabinet member with responsibility for arts and culture - said the exhibition had been a "great success".

"The English Riviera is certainly gaining a well deserved reputation for hosting great art," said the councillor.

"Roll on Art on the English Riviera 2011."

Amelia said attracting important work to the barn has been a "learning curve" and the wider benefits are now becoming clear.

Spanish Barn Torre Abbey
The work was on show for almost two months

"We have realised that, building on the last two years, our own Torre Abbey Contemporary Open - TACO - exhibition has delivered superb work.

"We hope to build on this and our ambition is to make TACO a must for both artists and visitors.

"Having international artists here has helped us attract the best in the South West and this is something we will now concentrate on.

"We want to produce national and international artists right here in Torbay."

So how does it feel seeing the barn - which was home to the piece for almost two months - now temporarily empty?

"I am sad to see all exhibitions leave," said Amelia.

"They become so much a fabric of one's life, but the next exhibition Trace, which is a print-based exhibition, is coming from Newcastle and I will soon be installing that.

"I am also planning to work with a team of artists and council staff to work on how TACO can be taken forward and this will start soon - it is always onwards and upwards!" she said.

"There is a never a dull moment."

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