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IT’S the controversial art exhibition where the public come face-to-face with the artist – in all his naked glory.

With a head made of gold bars the revealing statue is striking to say the least – particularly since it’s a life-size cast of the man who created it, Jochem Hendricks. And it’s not the only exhibit likely to raise eyebrows at Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery.

There’s also the diamond made out of a footballer’s amputated leg and a single thread of human hair that stretches 25 miles.

The German artist says he likes to “irritate” his audiences, to make them stop and think.

The statue, named Luxus Avatar, has been delivered to join the rest of Hendricks’ exhibition, which opened on November 6.

Provocative As was previously reported in the Echo, the artist produces provocative work, which also includes taxidermy dogs and displays of stolen items.

The statue is a copy of the artist which ‘lives’ a parallel luxury existence.

Its ‘possessions’ are paid for with money that would otherwise have been paid as tax in the artist’s native Germany.

“It’s not that I’m not willing to pay taxes but when you make money for the first time if your life it’s a shock when you have to give it away,” said Hendricks.

“I decided to make an artwork from my taxes rather than simply giving it to the state. I came up with the idea of buying gold bars to make the sculpture and keeping it.”

Hendricks admits that he isn’t always comfortable with his naked form being displayed.

“A lot of times I am part of the work, or my body is, but this is not exhibitionism,” he said.

“It’s rather unpleasant for me to be naked on the catalogue for the exhibition. “I am doing experiments with myself in the laboratory. I’m my own rabbit.”

Jack Lewis, a spokesman for the gallery, said the exhibition was proving very popular.

“As we are a contemporary art gallery, with many artists and works that push the boundaries in their work and artistic practice, I think the majority of visitors have got to know what we do over the years, plus have seen more controversial work circulating in the world of contemporary art,” he said.

He added that the exhibition had seen good visitor numbers, with around 6,000 people visiting since it opened at the beginning of November.

The exhibition, which was brought to Southampton through the gallery’s own exhibition budget, which is funded by the Arts Council and the University of Southampton, continues until Thursday.