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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Hirst's calf upsets farmers
Damien Hirst's Prodigal Son
The sculpture, called Prodigal Son, was created in 1994
A Damien Hirst sculpture of a dead calf cut in half and suspended in formaldehyde has been criticised by farmers, who say it brings back memories of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The sculpture is part of an exhibition to give farmers and businesses a boost in Cumbria, one of the areas worst hit by the disease.


It is meant to be metaphorical and related to people

Damien Hirst
Thousands of livestock were slaughtered in the area as a result of foot-and-mouth.

But Hirst's exhibit - displaying the calf's spine, intestines and organs - has been described as being in poor taste and bringing too many bad memories back to farmers and their families.

The sculpture, titled Prodigal Son (Divided), sits alongside more sedate artworks by Gainsborough, Turner and Stubbs in Carlisle's Tullie House gallery.

Damien Hirst
Hirst has used the same techniques with sheep
It is hoped that the line-up of well-known artists will help attract tourists back to the region.

"Cumbria welcomes any attempt to help regenerate the economy," the National Farmers' Union's county chairman, Will Cockbain, told BBC News Online.

"But some aspects, such as the Damien Hirst calf, may prove to be in bad taste in view of the amount of culling that we had to endure last year."

Hirst said Prodigal Son was not meant as a comment on foot-and-mouth, having been created in 1994.

"The calf came from a knackers yard and died of natural causes," he told BBC News Online.

"If the calf hadn't been used in this piece of art, it would have been dog food. It is meant to be metaphorical and related to people, it was created a long time before the foot-and-mouth outbreak."

The crisis was a very tragic situation for everybody involved, he added.

Bad memories

Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995 for a cow and calf cut in half and suspended in formaldehyde, and has also used the same technique with sheep.

The gallery points out in promotional literature that many will find the exhibit provocative and disturbing, and that many of Hirst's works are marked by a fundamental theme of death.

"Children had to suffer the loss of pet calves and pet lambs," Mr Cockbain said.

"If they were to be walking around that exhibition, that would bring back memories and probably would be regarded as in poor taste."

Popular

The gallery defended the inclusion of Hirst's piece, saying the exhibition chronicled livestock in UK art over the last 300 years and would be incomplete without modern works.

"The Prodigal Son is not to everybody's taste. However, many farmers and other members of the public have been very interested to see an original Hirst in the context of this exhibition," a statement said.

The exhibition is on the way to becoming the most popular show ever staged at the gallery, it added.



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