How Animals Are Involved in Contemporary Art

People have been interacting with animals in different ways for a long period. And not always this interaction was pleasant and even safe for the latter.

Today, we can see a tendency towards protecting animals’ rights and stopping all the cruel things that happened to them on the part of humans. However, sometimes it seems that all these attempts are not enough because many people continue to perceive animals like things. Of course, some animal admirers do their best to provide their pets with the best conditions possible, so they study wholehearted cat food reviews, choose the best dog leashes, walk them regularly or clean litter boxes. However, it is only one side of the coin. If you look deep down the question, you will see the whole unpleasant picture. And contemporary art leaves much to be desired when it comes to the involvement of animals in it.



It is better to start with something pleasant and discuss what role animals play in modern painting. You might have noticed that pictures, posters, and murals with animals have recently become incredibly popular. They’ve started creating clothes with cute emblems and pictures of various animals. For example, t-shirts with a pic of a French bulldog were in trend last year. Photographers attract four-legged models to take interesting and outstanding pictures that will become a foundation for posters and prints. Animals inspire painters to decorate buildings with huge, beautiful murals, often using them as symbols. In general, animal symbolism has been here for a while already, just the meaning changes from era to era. You can just look at Banksy’s picture, “Devolved Parliament,” representing about one hundred chimpanzees. Some artists use monkeys to show the bestial sides of society, and the chances are high that this meaning has been put into this picture too. An artist doesn’t need to say anything out loud since their works can talk much louder than any words. And often, animals do not play the last role in it.



Every person might have visited exhibitions at least once. Often, it is about demonstrating some kind of products, for example, the best cheap puppy food or works like paintings. However, some contemporary artists believe that it is not enough to create masterpieces and show ready-made works. They use animals to implement their ideas. Unfortunately, some exhibitions look very ambiguous and evoke more negative than positive emotions. For example, 26 years ago, a conceptual artist decided that arranging an installation with a living donkey in a SoHo gallery would be awesome. Another artist decided to show a live picture and brought 12 horses. In most cases, fortunately, such ideas turn into a failure pretty soon, and even though animals feel discomfort, it doesn’t last for too long. Some artists see only the final result, forgetting that they are working with living creatures that have their feeling and can experience fear and pain.



There must be certain limitations in artists’ attempts to show their talent and broadcast their thoughts. Sometimes they overdo it with it. For example, the same notorious Banksy decided that it would be great to take a living elephant and use its skin as a canvas. Thus, a painted elephant became an installation of Banksy’s exhibition “Barely Legal.” Even though it was initially permitted to make the animal a part of the exhibition, the organizers directed to scrub the paint off since there were concerns that paint could negatively affect the animal’s health. It can hardly be called art but rather cruelty. Animal skin must not become a canvas even if you are a gifted artist.



Even though some separate organizations are working on improving the situation, it hasn’t changed much in recent years. Yes, more designers have started choosing vegan leather instead of the usual one, and some cosmetic companies have rejected testing on animals, but there is still a lot of work to do. There are many ways to implement even the weirdest fantasies without the involvement of animals. They have started forbidding circuits with animals and some other organizations that cannot boast of loyal animal treatment, but the whole situation still leaves much to be desired. Animals are not cute toys and tools that can be used in every possible way.

Nonetheless, there are no countries where it is legally prohibited to raise animals for industrial purposes (for example, making clothes and shoes) and producing and consuming all types of meat or poultry. But vegan ideology is gaining momentum, and more people are advocating an ethical attitude towards all living things. One can endlessly argue how appropriate it is to give up eating meat, but even animal protein admirers oppose senseless cruelty and violence against animals in all life spheres. And contemporary art is no exception.

In many countries, there have been adopted laws criminalizing senseless violence against four-legged animals, and they are becoming more severe every year.


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