Damien Hirst’s 2012 Tate gallery retrospective may have leaked dangerous fumes from the various tanks exhibited, which could have caused a health hazard. A research paper from the Royal Society of Chemistry journal detailed the display and reportedly found that the preserved artworks “Away From The Flock” and “Mother And Child Divided”, leaked potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde, whilst displayed at London’s Tate Modern gallery, over a five month period in 2012. Atmospheric levels reportedly reached up to 5ppm (parts per million) – ten times over the advisory limit.
These levels would not be dangerous to potential visitors to the retrospective however they might be deemed hazardous to Tate staff spending hours in the rooms, with the exhibits, while working in the public galleries. In the past Mr Hirst has made no bones about his delight in working with the dangerous chemicals, claiming his use of formaldehyde is driven by the fact that “it is dangerous and it burns your skin. If you breathe it in, it chokes you.”
A spokesman for the Tate gallery responded to the report by stating: “Tate always puts the safety of its staff and visitors first, and we take all necessary precautions when installing and displaying ourexhibitions. These works contained a very dilute formaldehyde solution that was contained within sealed tanks.”
A spokesperson for Science Ltd’ told Artlyst; “We do regular testing and our experts tell us that at the levels reported your eyes would be streaming and you would be in serious physical discomfort. No such complaints were made to us during the show – or at any other shows featuring the formaldehyde works. We don’t believe any risk was posed to the public.”