detail of photo 'Joerie: cover her in flowers' door Simone Henken detail of photo 'Joerie: cover her in flowers' door Simone Henken

Tot Zover

The Last Pet - a tribute to dead animals

People love animals. We are touched when they die. Our sadness is most heartbreaking when a beloved companion animal dies. But do we also mourn the death of roadkill or factory farm animals? The last pet describes the intimate bonds we share with animals and explores the limits of our grief.

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Half of all Dutch families keep one or more pets. As such these animals enjoy a special status: they are  not only our best friend, but part of the family as well. They receive the best care, eat refined foods and often sleep in our beds. Concerning terminal illness or crippling old age, pets are increasingly put down in a ‘humane’ way after which a ritual farewell in the form of a pet burial or cremation follows. Jewelry of footprints, fur or ashes are made into beloved keepsakes. Pet memorial culture thrives. To which extent is mourning animals comparable to mourning human beings?

Paradoxical attitude

All the same, most animals in our lives are not mourned. We love them, but eat them too. Factory farmed animals feature on our menu, wild animals are disregarded roadkills and many animal species are critically endangered and driven to extinction. These animals are present, though ‘invisible’ and anonymous. Our paradoxical attitude concerning animal welfare is getting more attention in modern society. Take for example the recent Dutch public outrage with the multiple factory farm fires and the shooting of deer in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve.

Contemporary artists

The Last Pet looks at the ways in which contemporary artists contemplate and investigate aspects of animal mortality. Perspectives range from the very personal loss of a companion animal to the ‘unmourned’ animal deaths we are constantly surrounded by. The exhibit challenges our hierarchical human/animal distinctions and pulls into focus diverse emotional ties. The selected artworks are informative, poetic and provocative. They remind us of the beauty and the ill fate of animals in a world of transforming ideas.

Participating artists:  Josine Beugels / Martin uit den Bogaard / Pascalle van Dijk & Aron van Blooijs / Meinbert Gozewijn van Soest / Simone Henken / Emma Kisiel / Miriam Knibbeler / Christel Mitchell / Léon van Opstal / Satijn Panyigay / Tineke Schuurmans / Tinkebell / Basse Stittgen / Stephan Vanfleteren / Jop Vissers Vorstenbosch / herman de vries / Daphne Wageman / Adriana van Zoest

Mourning culture

The exhibit The Last Pet- a tribute to dead animals provides insight to the current mourning culture surrouning deceased animals. A historic timeline provides context to the evolving human-animal relationship and an infographic shows the increasing amount of petcemeteries and crematoriums. For the past years, the variety of memorial souvenirs has extended exponentially. It can be comforting to have a keepsake of your beloved pet: a large collection of animal-urns, in memorium portraits and other furry keepsakes are on display. And how does an animal cremation actually work?

A large display case shows the joy and sorrows experienced in ARTIS, the famous Amsterdam zoo. When an iconic animal at ARTIS passes away, it gets a lot of media attention. Hundreds of visitors flock to the famous Amsterdam zoo to see their beloved animal one last time. To say goodbye. To express their grief, to support the animal’s caretakers. 

Commemorate your pet

Would you like to commemorate your own deceased pet or other favourite animal in the exhibition? 
We host an online and offline memorial especially for your beloved animal. Submit your story and picture to communicatie@totzover.nl or use #delaatsteaai. We will make a special dedication online and give your animal a place in the 'animal heaven' part of the exhibition.


The exhibit The Last Pet - a tribute to dead animals is financed by the Mondriaan Fonds and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.