FROM Damien Hirst’s dead shark preserved in formaldehyde through to Tracey Emin’s own unmade, dirty bed - the world of art is not short of controversy.

But could The Scallop in Aldeburgh possibly top the lot?

Maggi Hambling’s stainless steel sculpture has polarised opinion since it was unveiled in 2003.

While some think it is a modern masterpiece others want to see it removed from its home on one of Suffolk’s most popular beaches.

The controversial art work is a tribute to Benjamin Britten - who had a home in Aldeburgh - and attracts scores of visitors a year.

But it has been a constant target for vandalism since it was unveiled on an area of beach to the north of the town.

Paint has been daubed across its shell, labelling it a “tin can” and demanding its removal.

It had been thought the furore surrounding it had died down in recent years. But as the EADT revealed yesterday it appears as if the long running saga may have been re-ignited.

A fresh splattering of paint was discovered on the sculpture earlier this week - the 12th time in seven years it has been vandalised.

A spokesman for Suffolk Costal District Council condemned the act and said they would clean up the mess as soon as possible.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary also confirmed they were investigating the incident.

Last night Lindsay Lee, clerk to Aldeburgh Town Council called the vandalism “mindless”.

The location of The Scallop led to strong feelings in the town and a campaign group - Voices of the People - was set up in a bid to get it moved.

Supporters believe the sculpture should stay where it is, on the wild coastline which inspired Britten.

Objectors say it should be moved because it ruins an unspoilt stretch of beach.

However in 2004 Suffolk Coastal District Council and Aldeburgh Town Council agreed that it should stay put.

A petition in favour of moving it was started in the town at the end of 2003, just a few weeks after it was unveiled, and attracted nearly 1,000 signatures.

Campaigners also came up with a list of nine other possible sites for the sculpture in the town.

The EADT ran a readers’ poll in which 2,163 people voted in favour of The Scallop staying put and 738 against.

Although most were local people the poll attracted votes from as far as Scotland.

A petition supporting the sculpture’s present site raised more than 1,000 names.

In 2006 The Scallop won the Marsh Award for the best public sculpture in Britain.

A year later acts of vandalism were becoming such an irritation that police told Aldeburgh Town Council they wanted to step up patrols and possibly use a mobile camera to deter or catch the criminals.

In its first year the sculpture was vandalised three times and by 2008 - the last time it was targeted - the number of incidents had risen to 11.

Creator Maggi Hambling said: “It [the vandalism] seems to be executed by rather unimaginative people. It’s very boring.”

Anyone with information about the vandalism should call Aldeburgh and Leiston Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) on 01473 613500.