British artist Damien Hirst is paying tribute to National Health Service (NHS) workers in the UK through his art. Titled Butterfly Rainbow, the vibrant digital collage shows a rainbow embellished with butterfly wings on its arcs.
The artist, who is self-isolating in London, shared the image on his Instagram page, announcing that the artwork can be downloaded for free on his website and printed by the public to display on the windows of their homes. The rainbow has become a symbol of hope and reassurance in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, with the campaign starting Italy and adopted around the world.
“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to the wonderful work NHS staff are doing in hospitals around the country. The rainbow is a sign of hope and I think it’s brilliant that parents and children are creating their own version and putting them up in the windows of their homes,” Hirst wrote. He also stated that a limited edition print of the work will be available for sale, with proceeds going to the NHS.
The UK’s healthcare system is shouldering tremendous strain as the government struggles to provide staff and care workers sufficient personal protective equipment to fight the virus. At the time of writing, the UK government has verified 27 deaths of NHS staff from Covid-19, though numbers are suspected to be higher. So far, the UK has suffered 16,060 deaths from Covid-19, with 120,067 cases.
The motif of the butterfly is a signature element in Hirst's works. He began using it in 1991 with his installation In and Out of Love, which featured the insects pasted onto solid coloured canvasses.
In a second Instagram post, Hirst has also shared a heart-shaped version of the work as "symbol of solidarity and hope" to support a food distribution campaign run by the Evening Standard and The Independent in the UK. "I'm in awe of the charity-workers and community groups across the country who are risking their lives and health to deliver food to the most vulnerable in this time of crisis," he stated.