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Artist Huang Yong Ping, photographed in 2005, has asked that his installation remain but without the insects and lizards. ((Vancouver Art Gallery))

The Vancouver Art Gallery will remove insects and reptiles from an art exhibit after the city's humane society demanded changes to the installation.

"It is extremely disappointing that a major exhibition of this important artist's work has been overshadowed by competing concerns," said chief curator Daina Augaitis about the work Theatre of the World by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping.

Theatre of the World, featuring toads, scorpions, snakes, crickets and other creatures, is part of a retrospective of the artist's work. House of Oracles features 40 installations by the Paris-based Huang.

Augaitis said the gallery had been working with a veterinarian and the SPCA to make sure the creatures weren't harmed but she said the Vancouver Humane Society was demanding more than what the artist was willing to do.So instead of altering the exhibit, the gallery opted to remove it.

Theatre of the World had the lizards and insects placed under domes of wire with lights shining upon them and a wooden python suspended above the live animals. A veterinarian had recommended added water bowls, giving the creatures a place to retreat and changing the light.

The text accompanying the piece says, "The work functions as a metaphor for the conflicts among different peoples and culture— in short, human existence itself."

5,000 visitors to show

Augaitis said the show had drawn 5,000 visitors since its launch April 6.

Peter Fricker of the humane society said the exhibit was designed to instigate aggression and told one newspaper that he thought Theatre of the World was "kind of sick."

Huang, in a statement from Paris, has asked the structure remain, and also accused the SPCA of being unreasonable.

"They completely ignored the concept and ideology behind this particular art work, citing instead the doctrines of so-called 'animal rights' that violently interfere with the rights of an art work to be freely exhibited in an art museum.

"Their purpose is to modify the art work into something that resembles a zoo or a pet shop, where each species is neatly separated into different glass boxes in order to present a staged 'natural environment.'"

The installation runs until Sept. 16 and will then move to Beijing.

With files from the Canadian Press