ART NEWS: Damien Hirst unveiled a controversially retro work at the Tate Modern last night, launching a national snowman competition backed by the gallery.

‘Snowman in formaldehyde’ or ‘The Physical Impossibility of Cold in the Mind of Someone next to a Radiator in the Desert’, which shows a snowman sliced in two and standing in a tank of formaldehyde, has polarised the critics. Some say it’s bad, others say it’s totally and utterly abysmal.

“It’s a lot cheaper than a skull covered in diamonds, I can tell you that,” Hirst told The Poke, after miming what he would like to do to  British art critics, “but it’s bloody tricky stopping the snow melting in the tank. You need a lot of hairspray.”

With snowfall across much of the country, the timing couldn’t be better.

“Snowmen are how most people experience sculpture for the first time,” said Tate Modern’s Director, Chris Dercon. “As we are charged with bringing art to the people, I think a national snowman competition is a fantastic idea. We’re thrilled that Damian’s come on board to champion the project.”

Thousands of entries have flooded in all morning with some of the best displayed in the gallery below.

“If it helps get kids into art, then I’m all for it,” said Hirst.

“I remember I was about eleven and we’d built a snowman in the back yard. I was playing in the snow with my mate Tracey, who had come round because her mum was shouting at her for not making her bed. I leant up, took the carrot out of his nose and stuck it in to make a willy instead. I looked round at Tracey who gave me a thumbs up. I think that’s when we both realised we were going to be artists.”

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