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An installation of the artist Yu Buck was removed from the Jeonnam Museum of Art in Gwangyang, South Korea, because of complaints about animal cruelty — as it contained dying fishes.  The piece featured 15 live, dying or dead goldfishes in IV bags (the plastic bags used for intravenous solutions to be administered to patients during medical procedures). It was part of an exhibition called “Mourning: In the Wake of Loss, A Curatorial Essay” that opened on 30th June 2022. Five of the 15 fish died after the exhibit opened, but the museum removed the rest (leaving the installation, but without fishes).

The artist turned animal abuser told Korea Times, “The slow deaths of the goldfish were meant to be a part of my piece. Now that the fish are gone, it lost its meaning as a work of art.”  It’s not the first time he has perpetrated animal abuse of this kind. The bulk of Yu’s practice seems to involve luring flies and other insects to their death using glowing light and adhesive applied to acrylic or glass boxes.

A museum official said, “Art museums are designed to serve as open plazas as well as platforms for discussion… As we value the visitors’ feedback and the animal rights groups’ stance, we removed the goldfish after consulting with the artist.”  Recently, an installation by artist Damien Hirst at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg museum in Germany was also removed for concerns about the live insects it abused. Although it is sad to see that some artists don’t have enough empathy to realise that some lines should never be crossed in art — such as when it causes suffering or death to unwilling sentient beings — it’s good news that the art galleries and museums are responding adequately to the complaints of concerned visitors, and are removing the offending pieces from the public display (and in doing so ending the suffering they were causing).