With July 2023 confirmed to be the world's hottest month on record globally, there is renewed focus on how London's museums are responding to the climate emergency. A recently installed group of works by the Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno has possibly provided a blueprint—growing over the past two months to become a thriving sanctuary for wildlife.
The Hyde Park-based institution, for its current exhibition of Saraceno’s work, commissioned the artist to create several honeycomb-like sculptures, designed to house the entire strata of wildlife that live in London’s Kensington Gardens. They have been placed on the Grade II listed Serpentine South Gallery’s facade, grounds, roof as well as within its interiors.
The structures make up part of his Cloud Cities series, a set of suspended architectural models that are meant to propose new ways of thinking about how to live in harmony with the environment. Previous iterations have been designed as living space for visitors or filled with plant life.
Saraceno, who trained first as an architect, has long engaged with nature and ecology as subjects, and has a particular interest in spiders. Inside the building, his exhibition Web(s) of Life (until 10 September) is oriented around a monumental installation representing webs built by various species of spider. Before opening the show, Saraceno learned about the various species of insects, birds and mammals that live in the lush urban parkland which surrounds the gallery, and designed structures for them. The temperature of the building itself is also controlled to appeal to insect, rather than human, life.
The objects were brimming with life at the Serpentine’s summer party on 27 June, where London’s assorted influencers, pop stars and models rubbed shoulders with the city’s top politicians and industry doyens.
Through the exhibition and the new sanctuaries, Saraceno has raised questions as to how new and unprecedented temperatures will impact on London's wildlife and how the city's cultural sector should respond. The works could also be seen to extend to its fullest limit another line of inquiry being undertaken by museums across the world: how to truly become diverse and welcoming spaces.
The Serpentine South Gallery is heritage listed, so making these alterations was an effortful process. Will they be removed once Saraceno’s show comes to an end? Let’s hope not.
- Tomás Saraceno in Collaboration: Web(s) of Life, until 10 September, Serpentine Galleries, London