Damien Hirst Uses His Signature Butterflies Against Brexit Vote
He's not alone.
Artist Damien Hirst made his feelings clear about the upcoming Brexit referendum, as British residents make the historic decision on whether or not to stay in the European Union on June 23. With a series of three designs, all of which were posted to his Instagram account, one of the United Kingdom’s most expensive living artists joins the ranks of fellow YBA member Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, and hundreds of other British cultural figures who’ve petitioned to stay in.
The first of Hirst’s three graphics features a patchwork of his signature blue butterflies forming the word “IN,” indicating his support for the pro-EU collective We Are Europe.
His two subsequent graphics for the campaign see variations of the same design. Notably, the second one in his series offers the explicit statement: “Damien believes Britain is stronger and safer in the EU.”
That Hirst is advocating for Britain’s continued membership in the EU isn’t surprising. As Laura Chesters notes in her coverage for artnet News on Brexit’s potential impact on Britain’s arts institutions, numerous galleries, museums, and individual artists benefit from the EU’s funding for the arts, which number in millions of great British pounds every year.
However, those on the opposing camp remain suspicious of these incentives. As art law specialist Becky Shaw told artnet News earlier this month: “Brexit supporters would likely respond to this by pointing to the money which arguably might be saved by leaving the EU, although there is no guarantee that this would be spent on the arts especially in the current climate of cuts to cultural funding.”
Given Hirst’s reputation and influence, his participation in the international conversation adds to what other artists have been saying across the EU. British artist Tracey Emin told the BBC last month, it would be “absolute insanity” to leave. Berlin-based artist Wolfgang Tillmans, who created a series of pro-EU graphic works of his own, has also lent his visual powers in an effort to convince the British population to vote in.
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