The dyed birds fly around a city square in Italy.

Painted Pigeons

Is it right for artists to capture and paint live animals in the name of art?

Birds in two European cities have unwittingly become part of an artwork. A pair of artists installed a cage-like device on a rooftop in Copenhagen, Denmark, and later in Venice, Italy. When pigeons fly inside, a conveyor belt carries them through the contraption. It sprays the birds with non-toxic dye that fades over time. The machine then releases the tropical-looking pigeons back into their urban habitats. Some people see the project as a fascinating public artwork. But critics say that trapping and dyeing the birds is a form of animal abuse. 

Artists Julius von Bismarck and Julian Charrière, both based in Berlin, Germany, are the team behind the pigeon-painting work. They argue that their device does not harm the pigeons.

People often ignore flocks of pigeons, and the artists hope their brilliantly colored birds will change the way people see and interact with the animals. Many people applaud the artists for creating a new form of street art (visual art in a public location) that uses colorful, living sculptures and entire cities as canvases. The avian-airbrushing apparatus and photographs of the colorful birds were later displayed in a gallery.

This isn't the first time artists have used animals in their installations. The street artist Banksy painted a live elephant in 2006, for example, which angered animal-rights activists. People thought it was unfair to treat a living creature as an object. They worried that forcing the animal to take part in the artwork caused it stress and was inhumane. What do you think? Is it ethical to use living creatures in art?

Back to top
Read Aloud