British museums celebrate wildlife found in gallery collections


Nearly 500 British museums are participating in 'The Wild Escape' project. Photo: AFP

Biodiversity faces many threats, including the destruction of natural environments and the climate crisis.

Its future is particularly bleak in Britain, where 15% of the fauna and flora are now in the process of extinction. A situation that is leading the country's many museums to join forces.

More than 500 museums are taking part in The Wild Escape, a nationwide project launched by the Art Fund and supported by Arts Council England. It is the biggest ever collaboration between British museums, according to a press release for the project.

The Wild Escape aims to raise awareness among British schoolchildren of the threats to biodiversity. It seeks to encourage them to visit the 500 museums participating in the initiative, so that they can be inspired to create artworks featuring endangered animals and plant species in Britain.

These artworks will then be brought to life in a monumental mural designed by the video game studio PRELOADED. The mural will be unveiled to the public on April 22 to coincide with Earth Day.

Environmental activists and international artists are also taking part in The Wild Escape to raise awareness of the causes of biodiversity loss, including Claire Twomey, Es Devlin, Heather Phillipson and Yinka Shonibare.

British musician FKA Twigs has created a self-portrait in which she is at one with fauna and flora, while Mark Wallinger pays tribute to the poem Ode To A Nightingale by John Keats in a creation called Fled Is That Music.

A choice inspired by the fact that these songbirds have seen their population decrease by 90% over the last five decades, according to National Geographic.

For Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund, this initiative shows how museums, and more broadly the world of culture, have a role to play in the fight to preserve biodiversity.

"The Wild Escape will show how British museums can encourage new forms of creativity, encouraging children to take ownership of one of the defining challenges of our lives. The risk to our precious wildlife," she said in a statement.

This ambitious project follows the publication of the "Biodiversity Trends Explorer" report from London's Natural History Museum in 2021. It reveals that Britain has lost half of its wildlife and plant species since the 1970s.

This loss is largely attributable to human activities, as in many other parts of the world. As a result, only 53% of Britain's biodiversity remains, placing the country in the top 10% of the world's most vulnerable in terms of safeguarding the diversity of living species. - AFP

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