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Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009
London's Death Counter

On 31 December 2009 London's Death Counter will stop and reach a figure of over 50 million.

The Death Counter ready to start on 1 January 2009
The Death Counter ready to start on 1 January 2009

This figure is a sobering reflection on how many worldwide deaths are estimated in just one year.

Spanish artist Santiago Sierra installed the counter outside the front of insurance company Hiscox in the City of London in December 2008.

The artwork was a legally binding contract between Hiscox and the artist
The counter began on 1st January 2009 and ended on 31st December 2009
The final figure is over 55 million

The project, located near to Bishopsgate and St Mary Axe, aimed to remind people about the fast paced and changing nature of human life.

It also explored the cost of art in relation to life and the issues of risk and value. The artist has loaned his work to the insurers in return for a life insurance policy. Had Santiago Sierra died during 2009 Hiscox would have paid out the value of the project - €150,000 (Euros).

The huge outdoor LED display, measuring eight metres, has been running since the stroke of midnight at the beginning of 2009.

The counter at 41,246,866 in September this year
The counter at 41,246,866 in September 2009

It has run at nearly two numbers per second and will reach its conclusion on New Year's Eve.

The estimated number of deaths was based upon a demographic projection taken from the US census.

The artwork was commissioned by arts production agency ELECTRA in collaboration with Hiscox for the series of commissions Offer & Exchange: Sites of Negotiations in Contemporary Art.

This explored the use of legal contracts as a base for artwork.

Hiscox Art Projects

The Hiscox Art Projects launched in 2003 with the opening of regular public exhibitions of contemporary art in the heart of the City of London.

This is a challenging and thought provoking piece which will make its mark on the city.
Robert Read, Group Fine Art Underwriter, Hiscox

Hiscox Art Projects supports and represent talented artists by providing them with help such as residencies, exhibitions, art fairs, projects in independent spaces and touring shows within Europe.

All mediums such as painting, sculpture, film, photography and performance are covered by the project.

Elliot McDonald, Curator, Hiscox Art Projects said: "Death in art has forced us to question a subject we can only philosophise on - there are no guaranteed exit and entry points of information.

"Santiago Sierra has taken a very original view on the theme - equating the black hole of death to a series of numbers is both of-our-age and visually mesmerising at the same time. Connecting those numbers with a value of one life (his own!) he brings us a whole new dilemma involving three of life's big themes; Money, death and self-assurance. A fabulous concept and a stunning sculpture."

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