AN inch of stone 'stolen' from England's highest mountain in the Lake District and put on display at a swanky art exhibition in London has sparked outrage.

Ecuadorian artist Oscar Santillan took the piece of rock from the 3,209ft summit of Scafell Pike and placed it on a plinth to create an artwork called 'The Intruder' which is being exhibited at the capital's Copperfield Gallery from today.

Mr Santillan has come under fire from a number of Lake District organisations for 'essentially vandalising the mountain' but he insists that he has done nothing wrong.


"Collecting a pebble at the beach or a strange-looking rock during hiking are very common sensitive things we all do guided by our curiosity," said Mr Santillan.

"I can honestly say that I have not harmed such a wonderful place in any way. What I have done is a small suggestive gesture that reflects on the way in which humans have imposed their cultural categories over nature.

"I am very respectful of nature and was deeply sad to see people leave so much of their trash behind which I did my best to collect on my way down."

But his views are not shared by many in the Lake District and his actions have been roundly condemned.

Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: "We are all aware that Cumbria’s landscape has long has inspired generations of artists. These include international greats like J.M.W.Turner, Ruskin, Schwitters and Li Yyan-chia.

"These individuals have all taken a piece of this landscape away in the figurative sense. This is taking the mickey and we want the top of our mountain back."

Derek Cockell, secretary of the Wainwright Society, said: "What surprises me is that the artist comes from a country blessed with a magnificent range of mountains and yet doesn't seem to understand the appeal of mountain climbing.

"Perhaps Oscar Santillan should reflect on AW's words about 'the solitude and silence of the peaks' before thinking he has re-defined the English landscape by his action of taking one of the millions of stones scattered across the roof of England."

Terry Abraham, whose stunning film - ‘Life Of A Mountain - Scafell Pike’ - chronicling a year in the life of the mountain was shown on the BBC earlier this year, said: "The message of my film was to inspire people and enlighten them about the heritage of the area and to treat it with respect. 

"But then you get this artist who has essentially vandalised the mountain which sends out completely the wrong message."

Steve Watkins, editor of the East Sussex-based Outdoor Photography magazine, said: "We are outraged that the gallery is giving a platform to this sort of work that not only encourages but actually champions people damaging our national parks."

In promotional material advertising the exhibition, the gallery, which sits close to the banks of the River Thames in Southwark, says: "At a glance it is seemingly insignificant and yet the material is carefully presented. 

"Scaling Scafell Pike in the Lake District, the artist has stolen the uppermost inch of the highest mountain in England. An entire nation’s height is modified and its landscape re-defined by means of a single careful action."

A spokesperson added there was no criminal damage caused in making the work.