Artist: Andrew Swan
Date of Action: August 2023
Location: Cornwall, England
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: Trebah Gardens
Description of Artwork: Comprising of four towering plinths alongside A3 information placards, Andrew Swan’s Stinking Rich explains the negative impact on the environment wrought by four incredibly wealthy British citizens: Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Sir James Dyson, Denise Coates, CBE, and Kirsten Rausing, DL.
The Incident: Swan's work was removed from an exhibition in a Cornwall sub-tropical garden named Trebah Gardens because guests found it "depressing."
According to CornwallLive, an email from Trebah's director to the exhibition organizer said: "Since we spoke I've had another two comments (one verbal, one written) making five complaints in total about Andrew Swan's work and sadly I do think we would be better removing it from the exhibition here."
"This is by no means a comment on the quality of Andrew's work, or any of the other work within the exhibition, which I personally think is very good and thought-provoking. In my role however, I've got to balance the expectations and enjoyment of our visitors – who might not expect to see such work in a garden setting - the trial of exhibitions in that space and the Trebah brand."
The complaint in question reads: "The current exhibition next to the shop is frankly inappropriate for this type of venue. A number of people in my party commented that they do not want to come to a nice garden like Trebah to be preached at and go away feeling depressed.
"Also, some of the exhibits by Andrew Swan under the 'Stinking Rich' title are offensive and possibly libellous and I would like the board to review urgently. As life members, we do not consider that a disclaimer tacked on the end is either adequate or sufficient."
Results of Incident: Swan's exhibition was removed from the venue. A spokesperson for Trebah Gardens said: "Following several complaints from visitors and Trebah Garden members, we took the decision to ask the curators to remove Andrew Swan's piece Stinking Rich from display on August 2."
"We'd like to be clear; the request to remove this piece is in no way a judgement on the quality of Andrew Swan's work, or any other artworks on display within the In This Together exhibition, which we are delighted to host. In This Together has been curated by two of the artists involved, with the objective of the exhibition to create constructive conversation around climate change and to provide an additional experience for garden visitors within a large indoor space previously used for retail."
The artist believes that Trebah Gardens is the perfect place to exhibit his work, as the unique landscape there is under threat. He said: "I don't understand it. Trebah Gardens, the reason they exist is because of the beautiful woodland and foliage that's there, that's why people are visiting, but the whole exhibition is about the damage that befalls the environment."
"In 10 to 15 years, or a couple of generations, my grandchildren probably won't be able to go there because there won't be anything left, but people are complaining about the artwork destroying Trebah Gardens."
"It is a haven for the middle classes - it was originally a rich family that owned it, and it's a perfect place for the whole exhibition to be. This is where we should be showing it, opening people's eyes - but unfortunately I'm not able to do that."