28/08/2012 08:40 BST | Updated 27/10/2012 10:12 BST

Painted Pigeons In Venice By Julian Charrière And Julius Von Bismark: Worthwhile Art, Or Cruelty To Animals?

Pests, scavengers, 'rats with wings'... the common pigeon gets called a lot of things, but rarely are they labeled works of art.

But over in St Mark's square in Venice, a somewhat controversial effort by Swiss artist Julian Charrière, and German artist Julius von Bismark is attempting to change that - if only for a while.

To mark the city's architecture Biennale, thousands of visitors to the square have been surprised to see birds that appear to have swapped their usual drab grey feathers for shocks of green, blue, yellow or purple.


A tourist grapples with one of Charrière's coloured birds

Charrière and Bismark built a 'bird trap' on a roof in Copenhagen that put the birds on a conveyor belt where they were painted different colours - a method that has inevitably raised questions about animal cruelty.

pigeons walk

Visitors are flocking to St Mark's square to try and catch sight of the colourful birds

Charrière was quoted in the local paper insisting the project was carried out without any danger to the pigeons involved, and said it should actually lead to the reviled birds being 'better regarded' by the public.

pigeons lamp

Head bird

It's not the first time animals have been put to use unwittingly by artists. Only this year in London Damien Hirst revived his In and Out of Love installation which saw 100s of butterflies arranged around bowls of fruit in a humid room in the Tate modern.