Mushrooms are definitely having a moment. They stole the show at the V&A's Food: Bigger than the plate exhibition, showcasing their value in circular food cycles as oyster mushrooms bloomed on a bed of waste coffee grounds. If you haven't heard, they're kind of the new superheroes of the food world and, very soon, we may all be taking shelter under the nearest toadstool to avoid an environmental disaster.
Now, an entire exhibition has been dedicated to the planet-saving properties of these flexible fungi. Somerset House presents Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, a diverse exploration of the role that mushrooms have played (and will play) across art, science, architecture and design.
The exhibition is compact. Across its three rooms, you’ll learn about our shifting perceptions of fungi through the years: from viewing them as a gnarly, suspicious organism associated with witchcraft and sorcery to celebrating them as a superfood that can even help us live more sustainably.
Photo: Seana Gavin
The first room is dedicated to the appearance of mushrooms in literature and art, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and a collection of watercolour pictures by author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, to the work of American artist Cy Twombly. In the second room, the focus switches to the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms, explored here through the surreal art of Seana Gavin and Takeshi Murakami, and a multimedia dance installation, among other pieces.
Finally, we consider the future of mushrooms, from their growing use in sustainable fashion to their potential as an eco-friendly building material. Indeed, the humble mushroom seems to be key to unlocking sustainability to spores – or rather scores – of different industries.
Mushrooms lacks the sort of playfully immersive or interactive element that would open it up to children. On the flip side, those who come in search of interesting titbits about mushrooms – their anatomy or different types – might find them somewhat thin on the ground. But you won’t regret dipping into this free exhibition and will probably leave with at least one new fact about fungi.
Look out for special multi-sensory events complementing the exhibition, and don’t leave without popping into the gift shop, where you can pick up various mushroom-themed memorabilia, or pick up some mushroom-infused beauty products, courtesy of a special collaboration between skincare Brand Origins and Somerset House. Oh, and if you’re a foodie with a penchant for fungi, book yourself a seat at TABLE, a mushroom-themed dining experience curated by Michelin-starred chef and food writer Skye Gyngell.
|What||Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi review|
|Where||Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Temple (underground)|
16 Jul 20 – 13 Sep 20, Check opening hours before visiting
|Website||Click here for tickets and information|