I’m always on the look-out for art in unexpected places. But even I was surprised to catch sight of work by one of my favorite contemporary artists, Vik Muniz, in the window of a fancy porcelain shop.
Brazilian artist Muniz is best known for his use of unusual, often everyday materials, to create large scale photographic pieces. Materials he has used include: garbage found at the world’s largest dump in Rio de Janeiro; chocolate, dust, diamonds, sugar; and other photographs. The dishes on display in the window of the Bernardaud store on 59th and Park Avenue, along with Muniz’s photo, look nothing like his previous work but the link to the “everyday” is still there. These pieces were inspired by colorful strains of Paenibacillus andSalmonella (the causes of food poisoning, typhoid fever, and bacteremia) that are seen by scientists in petri dishes.
Muniz collaborated on this project with Tal Danino, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is researching ways to program bacteria for different uses, such as detecting and treating cancer. According to a wallpaper.com interview with Danino, “Vic said let’s make some real plates out of bacteria.” The images that fill the porcelain plates began as ten-centimeter-wide petri dishes, each filled with translucent, nutrient-infused agar, and dotted with a drop of bacteria in the center.
There’s a limited edition (2500) of six-set dinner plates which can be purchased through Bernardaud for $550.