The Frieze art fair in New York has a donkey on display as an “exhibit.” The “artist” is Maurizio Cattelan. The donkey is left standing around in an empty room with a chandelier above. What? This has no meaning, no message, nothing. The artist thinks it connects humans to animals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, this donkey is on display, an object for our entertainment. This is no different than going to a zoo, other than the pointless chandelier.
Many people are up in arms over the welfare of the donkey. Of course the show promoters argue that the donkey has it “good” and much better than being in a barn. Then again, are animals meant to just live out their lives in a barn?
This is not the first time animals have been used as “art.” Last year there were a dozen horses cooped up in a gallery. And in 2014, tortoises had i-Pads screwed into their shells for an “installation” piece by Cai Guo-Qiang. These are just recent examples that have made headlines. Unfortunately, there are others. In every one of these cases, the artists and the gallery owners all argue that the animals are fine and unharmed. There is no way that they can know this. They just issue some sanitary, generic statement to put the public at ease and go about their day. The animals are not their highest concern.
There is no reason why live animals should be used as art. If you were to replace the animal with a child, you would get a call from Social Services, so how is it any different for any other living being? There are ways to get your message across without using live animals. You’re an artist, get creative and figure out another way. I paint animals, I focus on our connection to the natural world, and I also deal with difficult issues such as habitat destruction and extinction, just to name a few.
If you really want to make a statement, how about going vegan? How about not supporting companies that test on animals? How about rescuing animals rather than using them? That’s a far greater statement than this so-called art.
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