THE legacy of Bradford artist David Hockney has been marked with the unveiling of a striking new piece of public art made up of a quarter of a million painted nails.

The artist turns 80 tomorrow, and Bradford is marking the occasion with events including the opening of a gallery dedicated to his work and a birthday party in Lister Park.

And this afternoon a huge portrait of the artist, installed on the side of a building in Little Germany, was revealed by artist Marcus Levine.

The work took the Bingley based artist over a year to complete, and plans for the piece date back as far as 18 months. However, much of the details behind it have been kept a secret until this weekend.

It is the world’s first coloured nail sculpture, and the hope is that the huge work will become a massive draw, bringing visitors to Little Germany.

The work is mounted on the external wall of a commercial building at the junction of Chapel Street and Peckover Street, and was revealed by nationally-known broadcaster and journalist Andy Kershaw.

The sculpture is 16ft high, 12ft wide, and weighs almost three-quarters of a ton. The 250,000 nails that make up the artist's portrait were hammered into a base of lacquered marine plywood and fixed onto the wall.

Organisations including Arts Council England, home shopping giant Freeman Grattan Holdings and timber merchant and supplier Arnold Laver contributed to the £42,000 cost of the work and its mounting on the building.

The sculpture was commissioned by Little Germany Action Group, a not-for-profit organisation of local business people and residents who are dedicated to improving an area of the city that contains an unprecedented number of listed buildings, but has been plagued by low footfall and empty units.

The project was also helped by The Broadway Shopping Centre and Bradford Council.

David West, chair of Little Germany Action, said: "Art is an important part of urban re-generation. If you have interesting, quirky art features they will attract people to the area. People notice it and start to wonder what is next for the area. It is great we have a world first piece of art here in Bradford. We hope people come to see this really incredible piece of art."

Mr Levine said: "When we were first talking about this piece of art 18 months ago we never realised the journey it was going to take.

"We decided to do David Hockney, as with it being his 80th birthday we thought it would be brilliant for Bradford. This piece is for Bradford, and to hopefully encourage and grow tourism in Little Germany.

"I didn't know how it would work out, I was very relieved when people saw it and said 'Ah, that's Hockney.'"

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s executive member for environment, sport and culture, said: “This sculpture is a brilliant and imaginative way of celebrating the 80th birthday of one of our city’s most famous sons. The work of David Hockney is world renowned, but it is fitting that there should be such an innovative piece of artwork as a lasting celebration of his life’s work in his home city.

“The work will add to the distinctive character of Little Germany and reflects how proud the district is of Hockney and his work, as well as showcasing the talents of Marcus Levine.”

The nail sculpture is the latest addition to a growing arts and culture trail in Little Germany, which already contained pieces of street art by Moonie – Bradford’s answer to Banksy - inspired by the Led Zeppelin song Stairway to Heaven and cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. The trail also includes the stonework from Bradford’s former Kirkgate Market and further additions are planned for later this year.

After the opening of the new Hockney Gallery at Cartwright Hall yesterday, and the unveiling of this artwork today, there will be a Happy Birthday Hockney event in Lister Park tomorrow from 1am to 4pm, featuring art, food, drink and live music, as well as actors portraying the artist, a Hockney disco and a puppet parade.

And South Square Gallery in Thornton is also holding a "pop up" exhibition of some of the artist's lesser seen works this weekend.