Damien Hirst show sees visits to Walsall gallery up by 60pc

The number of visitors to Walsall New Art Gallery rose by more than 60 per cent in the first weekend of the Damien Hirst exhibition, delighted leisure bosses have revealed.

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A total of 5,699 people packed into the £21 million venue compared to average weekly numbers of 3,400.

Gallery bosses today said the Hirst exhibition was proving to be one of their most successful displays and were hoping for record visitor numbers throughout the year.

The display from the controversial artist, whose work includes dead animals preserved in formaldehyde, is running until October 27, 2013.

The gallery recently re-opened to the public on Sundays to support the opening of the Hirst exhibition, and also to support its bid to host the Turner Prize in 2015.

Leisure chief councillor Anthony Harris said: “We are delighted that the Hirst exhibition has already attracted thousands of visitors. It is fantastic that the exhibition is running for a full year which enables people to visit at their leisure and to visit more than once if they wish.

“This really is a major coup for the borough and should be a real boost for local businesses and will also give local children a chance to view work from a world famous artist.

“It is totally free of charge and everyone in the borough should not miss this opportunity to view this interesting and controversial work.”

The work of the artist is rarely exhibited outside of London and is seen a coup for the borough.