Penguin debuts painting in art gallery in UK first

Thursday, 07 July 2022

A Humboldt penguin living in Cornwall has had his artwork unveiled in a renowned contemporary art gallery, in what’s believed to be a UK first.

Squidge, from the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, near Helston, debuted his painting career with his first canvas of work last month – a stunning rendition of colourful penguin footprints – as part of his daily enrichment activities with the animal care team.

The activities are key to helping animals like Squidge, who is a permanent resident at the wildlife charity, to remain engaged and active, as well as encouraging them to exhibit natural behaviours.

Now, his work is being featured at The Exchange, Penzance, a renowned contemporary art gallery that has previously exhibited work by the likes of Grayson Perry, Lubaina Himid, David Hockney, Terry Frost, and many other high-profile national and international artists.

It’s thought to be the first time a painting by a penguin has ever been featured in an art gallery in the UK.

Sian Kennedy, Operations Manager of The Exchange, says: “Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange are pleased to be able to support the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in displaying Squidge’s first painting.

“The Cornish Seal Sanctuary do a fantastic job rescuing and rehabilitating seals and the Fund our Future campaign will help them continue to support these beautiful creatures in the best way they can.

“Squidge’s colourful work will be displayed in the foyer of The Exchange for all of our visitors to see.”

The artwork is being auctioned off as part of the Fund Our Future campaign, which is hoping to raise £1.3million to redevelop four pools on the iconic sanctuary site.

Since the launch of the auction, Squidge’s work has hit national (and international) headlines and has already raised £2,000.

And for those who can’t afford to bid, they now have the opportunity to enter the Sanctuary’s prize draw to win a smaller piece of his work for just £10 a ticket.

Every penny will go towards building state-of-the-art pools at the sanctuary, securing the charity’s future while placing world-class animal welfare at the centre of everything they do.

While Squidge couldn’t make the launch event due to other commitments, his animal carers met members of the gallery team in his place to officially hand over the painting.

Polly Frier, Animal Care Specialist at the Sanctuary, says: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of attention that Squidge’s incredible artwork has received.

“His auction has now reached audiences on an international scale, and we’re so excited that his work is now being featured at this beautiful and iconic gallery in Penzance.

“While Squidge couldn’t be here himself, it’s no doubt a pivotal moment in his artistic career, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

All painting sessions have passed welfare checks and have been fully approved by the sanctuary’s veterinary specialists, with paint used certified as pet and child friendly, non-toxic and completely washable.

You can find out more about the Fund Our Future campaign and how to get involved, right here.