Reporter: Mushrooms: The art, design, and future of fungi, Somerset House

Somerset House’s exhibition celebrates all that Fungi has offered artists and designers over the years – and shows it is still full of potential

Words by Sophie Tolhurst

Mushrooms have long intrigued artists and designers, inspiring fascinating work across genres, as Somerset House’s new exhibition, curated by Francesca Gavin, reflects. Exhibits at the London event range from the watercolour illustrations of renowned children’s author Beatrix Potter and lithographic prints from American artist Cy Twombly, to the limited edition Mushroom Book from avant-garde composer (and mycophile) John Cage, while contributions from emerging artists span experimental video and collage to sculpture and textiles.

Mushroom-based design innovations on show include new building materials made from upcycled agro-waste by architectural technologist Mae-ling Lokko, mycelium products such as pendant lights from Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova, a specially commissioned chair from Tom Dixon, and a decomposable mushroom burial suit by Jae Rhim Lee.

The exhibition’s design is by agency Pentagram, which was also commissioned to create a fungi-inspired custom typeface. A bespoke collection of products inspired by mushrooms will be on sale, and there is also an extensive public programme: visitors to the event can participate in workshops to learn about growing their own mushrooms, or perhaps just sit back and enjoy a mushroom-inspired meal from chef Skye Gyngell’s pop-up kitchen.

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