'Magnificent' artist Fairhurst mourned

Tributes have been paid to Angus Fairhurst, one of the original Young British Artists who came to prominence in the 1990s, who has apparently committed suicide at the age of 41.

Fairhurst is thought to have taken his own life on Saturday, the same day as his last show closed, while walking in woodland in the picturesque spot of the Bridge of Orchy, in Argyll, Scotland.

The Kent-born artist studied art at Goldsmiths College in the 1980s, where he formed a lasting friendship and artistic collaboration with fellow students Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.

He was instrumental in organising the Freeze exhibition in 1988, which launched the careers of many of the Britart stars, and exhibited at the Apocalypse contemporary art show at the Royal Academy in 2000.

He subsequently exhibited in galleries and museums around the world and in 2004 had work shown with Hirst and Lucas in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at Tate Britain.

Critics have described his fascination with gorillas in cartoon depictions and small clay models as "utterly magnificent", but Fairhurst's art has also been described as "frustratingly slight".

Many of his works consisted of practical jokes.

Gallery Connections, in which he networked together the phones of galleries in London so that they were unwittingly speaking to each other, remains on show at Tate Britain.

A spokeswoman for the artist said: "It is with great sadness that we report the death of British artist Angus Fairhurst who tragically took his own life on Saturday March 29, 2008 whilst on a remote walk in Scotland.

"The family of Angus Fairhurst have asked that their privacy be respected at this time of such devastating loss."

Hirst said: "He was a great artist and a great friend, he always supported me, in fair weather and foul, he shone like the moon and as an artist he had just the right amount of slightly round the bend. I loved him."

Lucas, who had a relationship with Fairhurst, said: "Angus was a lovely man. Funny and kind. Very much loved by all his friends. Very much loved by me."

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said: "Angus Fairhurst was always deprecating about his own talent, but he made some of the most engaging, witty and perceptive works of his generation and was an enormously influential friend of other British artists who came to prominence in the early Nineties. We shall all miss him greatly."

Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar said: "Angus's death is tragic loss to British art.

"He was a brilliantly inventive, witty and provocative artist, always modest about his fundamentally important contribution to the soaring international reputation of British art since the 1990s."

Fairhurst's London representatives, Sadie Coles HQ, where his exhibition closed on Saturday, said: "Angus was funny, ridiculously charming, a wonderful cook and great host, a crazy dancer, a radical gardener, a nature lover, and an intensely intelligent artist.

"He was a dear friend to numerous other artists and had a huge number of close friends from all walks of life. We will all miss his love and kindness."

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde police said: "The body of a 41-year-old man was found within woodland near Inveroran cottage in Bridge of Orchy at around 4pm on Saturday 29 March.

"A post-mortem will be carried out to establish the cause of death, however at this time there appears to be no suspicious circumstances."

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