It was 5 years ago today: When Damien Hirst put a sheep in his tank

Five years ago this week, the art world was preparing for the opening of "Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away", a show of works by 15 contemporary artists curated by Damien Hirst, at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Hirst had been nominated for the Turner prize in 1992, but his work - formaldehyde-preserved sharks, dissected cows and calves - had already ensured his wider public profile. The show's potential for reactionary controversy was vast. (Its sculptures included Kiki Smith's Virgin Mary - a flayed, naked woman - and Michael Joaquin Grey's bright orange Balzac, suspended upside-down from the ceiling.)

It opened on 2 May, and reviews were favourable: "High-spirited and stimulating ... this art aims to entertain" (Telegraph); "An eye-wrenching experience" (Times); "One necessarily singular and necessarily eccentric artist's attempts to find or make for himself a like-minded community" (Independent). The FT felt it was "so safe, so predictable, so orthodox".

The Serpentine's centrepiece was Hirst's latest adventure in formaldehyde: Away from the Flock, a disembowelled sheep which had been "rescued" from a knacker's yard. Andrew Graham Dixon thought it was a "kind of self- portrait, banal and sad too: an image of the artist's knowledge that ... he is on his own" (Independent). The piece was sold for pounds 25,000 in the exhibition's first week: "Baa-rmy", said the Sun.

On 8 May, Hirst told the Mail on Sunday that he didn't mind what people thought about his work "so long as they get involved". On 9 May, Mark Bridger, an unemployed artist from Oxford, did just that: he removed the top of Hirst's tank, poured black ink into it and changed the title to "Black Sheep". Bridger gave his calling card to an assistant, who then chased him from the gallery.

"It was very shocking", the Serpentine's director Julia Peyton Jones recalls. "But we dealt with it quickly. We covered the case with paper for the rest of the day so you couldn't see the damage. It was restored overnight [the tank was drained and the sheep's fleece cleaned] and was back on view by 12o'clock the next day. Damien was very upset, but he was extremely pragmatic in dealing with it".

The exhibition became front-page news and, Peyton Jones says, "journalists were aggressive. They wanted immediate access to the piece. The show was already a discussion point; the vandalism compounded it". In the Independent, Brian Appleyard mused that "ink, in the circumstances, might be seen by Damien Hirst as a disappointingly mild response"; in the London Standard, Nigella Lawson asked "if all self-expression is art, what makes this act of vandalism any less the work of an artist?"

That was Bridger's defence at Bow Street Magistrate's Court in August. He said his action was a "positive contribution" to the work; Hirst disagreed. Bridger was found guilty of criminal damage and got a conditional discharge. Despite Hirst's enfant terrible status, Peyton Jones maintains the episode was "a surprise to everybody. I don't want to talk about Bridger's motives. It was a criminal act, it was against the law, it was dealt with as vandalism. It's not the most effective way to make any point about art".

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor