Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art

Group Exhibition. David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence, United States.

23 January 2016 – 27 March 2016

'Away from the Flock' (1994)

Photography by Stephen White
©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University hosts the exhibition 'Dead Animals, or the curious occurrence of taxidermy in contemporary art' which surveys the use of taxidermy through the work of eighteen contemporary artists. At a time when natural history museums are moving away from taxidermy, there has been a resurgence of interest in popular culture—in internet blogs and image collections, in fashion, home décor, and advertising—as well as in art practice. 

The exhibition and accompanying symposium will examine the cultural history of taxidermy, social factors that have contributed to artists’ interests in the “idea of the animal,” and the ways in which these interests are manifest in artists’ works. It will question how taxidermy, with its inherent association with death, differs from the use of live animals or animal substitutes such as stuffed animals, and why taxidermy may be particularly relevant to the exploration of the human-animal question. Finally, it will examine ethical issues surrounding the incorporation of animals in art.

Included in the show is Hirst's work 'Away from the Flock' (1994), a lamb in a tank of formaldehyde solution. 'Away from the Flock' is a key early work in Hirst’s ‘Natural History’ series. In ‘Away from the Flock’, Hirst addresses, “that failure of trying so hard to do something that you destroy the thing that you’re trying to preserve.”[1] The title came after Hirst completed the work and observed the “tragic beauty” of the animal. The lamb, identifiable within Christian iconography as Jesus, has been separated by death from the living so that, “you kind of feel sorry for it."[2]

Also included in the exhibition are sculptors Maurizio Cattelan, Kate Clark, Mark Dion, Nicholas Galanin, Thomas Grünfeld, Annette Messager, Polly Morgan, Angela Singer, Deborah Sengl; and photographers Snæbjörnsdóttir and Wilson, Karen Knorr, Richard Barnes, Jules Greenberg, Sarah Cusimano Miles, Richard Ross, and Hiroshi Sugimoto. 

Support for Dead Animals, and associated programs is provided by Brown’s Creative Art Council Arts Initiative and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, and the Marshall Woods Fine Art Lectureship.


[1] Damien Hirst cited in, Damien Hirst ‘I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now’ (Booth-Clibborn Editions; Reduced edition, 2005), 296.
[2] Damien Hirst cited in ‘Like People, Like Flies: Damien Hirst Interviewed’, Mirta D’Argenzio, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy: Selected Works from 1989–2004’ (Electa Napoli, 2004),138.