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Somerset House’s trippy mushrooms exhibition is going virtual

This (now online) show is dedicated to the art, design and science of ’shrooms

Written by
Katie McCabe

A mushroom is not just a vegetable. It’s true. In fact, it might not be a vegetable at all. One of the many bits of information that emerged from the Somerset House exhibition ‘Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi’ was that DNA profiles show mushrooms to be closer to animals than plants. It was an odd concept for a show, but one that captured a moment. Mycophilia is an obsession with mushrooms, and at the start of this year, before we all got much bigger things to worry about, there was a strange fascination with fungi building. We were becoming a nation of mycophiles. Suddenly everyone was talking about the role mushrooms play in the vegan food industry, their artistic influence (hello, ’60s psychedelia), their influence on the carbon cycle. 

Somerset House tried to address it all with its exhibition of psychedelic mushroom art, dome capped designs and scientific installations, but had to close it down in March. Thankfully, they’ve now found a way to repot the mushrooms into a virtual package so you can experience it from home. 

Carsten Höller, ‘Pilzkoffer (Mushroom Suitcase)’, 2008. Photograph: Mark Blower
Carsten Höller, ‘Pilzkoffer (Mushroom Suitcase)’, 2008. Photograph: Mark Blower

Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi’ will be made available online on Monday May 18, to coincide with International Museum Day. There’s a lot of information to take in, the science behind mycelial networks and how a biodegradable mushroom burial suit could take the strain off the funeral industry. But as our reviewer found when the show opened, it’s the varied styles in fungi art you’ll want to look out for: ‘Amanda Cobbett’s incredibly intricate little sculptures are stunning, Hamish Pearch’s resin constructions emerge creepily and hauntingly from burnt toast and stacks of paper, Beatrix Potter’s illustrations are lovely, obsessive things.’ And don’t miss Carsten Höller’s suitcase of spinning, solar-powered mushrooms.

It won’t be the same as visiting in person, but this way, you can zoom into the shrooms at your leisure. You’ll never look at those portobellos in your vegbox the same way again.

Find the virtual exhibition here from May 18. 

Take virtual tours through the collections of the biggest museums and galleries in London

Running out of shrooms? Find a new vegbox delivery service here

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