The Misplaced Outrage Over Damien Hirst’s Dead Butterflies

By Giovanni Aloi
Installation view of ‘Damien Hirst: Mandalas’ at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London, 2019. Photo: White Cube (Ollie Hammick); © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2019
Damien Hirst has recently unveiled a new series of his ‘butterfly-wing paintings’ and the internet is ablaze with debate. Butterflies, dead or alive, have appeared in the artist’s work since the late 1980s and he has produced very similar paintings to the ones now exhibited at White Cube in London since the mid-2000s. These works have always, to some degree, attracted criticism from vegan and animal rights groups, but the latest response – on Twitter, in letters to the Guardian and in a review by Times art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston – seems more widespread. But what strikes me as unprecedented about the recent criticism is its superficiality: the lack of acknowledgment that most artworks in our museums are smeared with countless animal deaths. [More]