Hirst, a 47-year-old successful British artist, has reportedly killed 9,000 butterflies so that he could display them in his latest piece named "In and Out of Love." The piece was most recently displayed at the Tate Modern in London.
According to a report done by the (U.K.) Telegraph, the 23 week-retrospective ended up killing about 400 butterflies each week. The piece consisted of two white rooms with no windows at the Tate Modern. Inside, the live butterflies lived until they were killed by being swatted, stepped on, or they simply died.
But while the work, "In and Out of Love," was praised by many art critics, the creative process behind Hirst’s latest work has by no surprise enraged many animal rights organizations, including PETA.
"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."
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.”
The use of dead animals is not uncharacteristic for Hirst, who is even had other works on display at the Tate, that of which included "Mother and Child Divided," a cow and a calf sliced in half and displayed in glass tanks filled with formaldehyde. The work won the prestigious 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.
Despite his latest display drawing much negative attention, mostly form pro-animal life organizations, 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.