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Damien Hirst condemned for killing 9,000 butterflies

Damien Hirst condemned for killing 9,000 butterflies in Tate show

The artist Damien Hirst has come under fire after it emerged that more than 9,000 butterflies died as part of an art work in his latest exhibition.

Damien Hirst condemned for killing 9,000 butterflies in Tate show

Damien Hirst Photo: REX FEATURES


Roya Nikkah

By , Arts Correspondent

7:50AM BST 04 Oct 2012

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Even by Damien Hirst’s standards it was an unusual artwork – two windowless rooms swirling with live butterflies.

Visitors to the exhibit at the Tate Modern in London observed the insects close-up as they flew, rested, and fed on bowls of fruit.

But whilst the work, In and Out of Love, was praised by many art critics when it featured in the gallery’s Hirst retrospective earlier this year, it has now landed the artist in a row with the RSPCA.

Figures obtained from the Tate reveal that more than 9,000 butterflies died during the 23 weeks that the exhibition was open.

Each week it was replenished with approximately 400 live butterflies to replace those that died – some of them trodden underfoot, others injured when they landed on visitors’ clothing and were brushed off.


A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “In this so-called ‘art exhibition’, butterflies are forced to exist in the artificial environment of a closed room for their entire lives.

“There would be national outcry if the exhibition involved any other animal, such as a dog. Just because it is butterflies, that does not mean they do not deserve to be treated with kindness.”

The exhibit used butterflies of the Owl and Heliconius species, which come from tropical regions and live for up to nine months in the wild. Those used in the exhibition are believed to have survived for between a few hours and several days.

Visitors saw the butterfly pupae pinned to white canvases while adults specimens flew freely around the rooms, feeding on flowers and sugar water as well as fruit.

The Tate’s description of In and Out of Love said “the themes of life and death as well as beauty and horror are highlighted, dualities that are prevalent in much of the artist’s work”.

Defending the use of the creatures, a Tate spokesman said: “The butterflies used in this [Hirst] work were all sourced from reputable UK butterfly houses and were selected from varieties known to thrive in the conditions created.

“The butterflies lived out the final stage of their natural life cycle inside this room. Approximately 400 butterflies were introduced to the exhibition over the course of each week, with many enjoying longer lifespans than in the wild due to the high quality of this environment.”

Many of Hirst’s most famous works feature dead animals. Among those on display at the Tate Modern were Mother and Child Divided, a cow and a calf sliced in half and displayed in glass tanks filled with formaldehyde, which won the Turner prize in 1995.

The exhibition also included The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark suspended in formaldehyde, and For the Love of God, a human skull covered in more than 8,500 diamonds.

The Tate previously faced accusations of animal neglect in 2009 when an exhibition at Tate Modern by Cildo Meireles, a Brazilian artist, featured a series of fish tank installations, resulting in the deaths of 12 fish.

A spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: “Damien Hirst’s quest to be edgy is as boring as it is callous. It does not matter whether Hirst killed the animals himself or sat by while thousands of them were massacred for his own unjustifiable amusement.

“Butterflies are beautiful parts of nature and should be enjoyed in the wild instead of destroyed for something predictable and unimaginative.”

Dr Martin Warren, the chief executive of Butterfly Conservation said: “It is very sad to hear of the death of so many butterflies. Butterfly Conservation is concerned that this work represents a throwaway approach to living creatures and encourages a lack of respect for the environment.”

Tate Modern’s show was the first major retrospective of Hirst’s work to be held in Britain, and was one of the most popular exhibitions in the museum’s history, attracting nearly 3,000 visitors a day.

Spanning more than two decades of Hirst’s work, it included pieces from his infamous 1988 Freeze show which hailed a new era of conceptual art and brought attention to the Young British Artists movement.

Spitfire will fly again

Forgotten Spitfire will fly again after major restoration

A project to create the most authentic flying Mark I Spitfire will be completed later this year when aircraft X4650 takes to the skies 70 years after the Battle of Britain.

A painting by Alex Hamilton showing Spitfires flown by Flt Sgt Howard Squire shortly before colliding with Sqdrn Ldr. Al Deere

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X4650 in the painting ‘Stick to me like glue’ by Alex Hamilton WWW.ALEXHAMILTON.NET

9:00PM BST 24 Jul 2010

The painstaking reconstruction of aircraft X4650 coincides with a public competition to design a permanent memorial to the aircraft’s designers.

It also shines a spotlight on the extraordinary story of young pilot Howard Squire who was flying the plane on a training mission led by RAF legend ‘Al’ Deere when the pair collided over North Yorkshire.

Sgt Squire, now 89, has visited the restoration project and hopes to see the finished aircraft fly over the south coast of England later this year.

Those involved in the project believe X4650 will be the most accurately-rebuilt Mark I Spitfire in the skies and will contain the highest number of original parts.

The wreckage was only discovered in the long, hot summer of 1976 when low river levels exposed the metal embedded in a clay riverbank on farmland near Kirklevington, Cleveland.


It had been there since December 28 1940, after Sgt Squire, then 20, bailed out after colliding with X4276 flown by Al Deere, Flight Commander of 54 Squadron at RAF Catterick.

New Zealand-born Deere, a Battle of Britain legend who went on to become an Air Commodore, was giving his junior a lesson in how to keep doggedly close to an enemy aircraft.

“Stick to me like glue,” he told Sgt Squire – a line that inspired a pilot training scene in the 1969 film, Battle of Britain.

However, the young man stuck too close and his plane – then only a few months old – hit Deere’s tail with his propeller at 12,000ft, forcing them both to ditch.

“I thought I was for the chop,” said Sgt Squire, who now lives near Birmingham. “There aren’t many pilots who knock their Flight Commander out of the sky. He was very good about it.”

Sgt Squire was shot down over France on February 26, 1941, and became a prisoner of war. He said: “The Spitfire was a beautiful aircraft, like a Tiger Moth but with real power. A doddle to fly. We used to throw them about all over the place, as unfortunately I demonstrated.”

The nature of the crash-landing later proved essential to the Spitfire’s revival.

In order to provide himself with the safest escape in his parachute, Sgt Squires had ‘trimmed’ the aircraft for stable flight that led to a slow, almost level descent into the riverbank rather than a high-speed impact that might have destroyed many more of the parts.

The aircraft has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore but is now thought to be worth more than £2m and is expected to enter private ownership.

It is currently registered to Peter Monk, the Spitfire enthusiast overseeing the complex project in which the engine has been refurbished by specialists in Gloucestershire and the airframe restored by craftsmen on the Isle of Wight.

There are about 50 Spitfires flying – a higher number than in the early 1950s. Britain was littered with wrecks in the years after the Second World War until enthusiasts began to recover them for sale or for museums.

The fighter plane was designed in 1936 by R J Mitchell at Southampton’s Supermarine seaplane factory following urgent requests from the Ministry of Aviation because of the looming conflict with Germany.

So many RAF orders were placed that production was spread to additional sites including Castle Bromwich near Birmingham, where X4650 was built.

Air Commodore Deere was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in a ceremony conducted by King George VI on June 28th 1940 at RAF Hornchurch. He retired in 1977, died in 1995 and his ashes were scattered over the Thames estuary from a Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial flight.

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