Last night, we attended the launch of Darwin 200 at the Natural History Museum. If he was still alive, Charles Darwin would be an actual living legend, due his 200th birthday on 12 February 2009. Clearly he's dead but that's no excuse not to have a national programme of activities around his life and work, especially since it's also nearly 150 years since the theory of evolution was pronounced and "Origin of the Species" published.
To celebrate, Darwin currently has pride of place, seated on the main stairs at the Museum, ponderously gazing at the Brontosaurus in the entrance hall. Possibly wondering what on earth is going on.
The first event fittingly involves the NHM and will see a lasting legacy with a new commissioned artwork for one of the Central Hall's first gallery ceilings, which has deteriorated beyond repair and been whitewashed (pictured). 10 artists have been selected to create proposals for a Darwin inspired canopy, which go on show at the museum today.
The proposals will be judged by a panel of art critics and curators, and the selected artist announced on 16 June 2008 when work will begin on the creation and installation of the artwork. The completed canopy will be unveiled on 12 February 2009, the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.
Our sneaky peak at the contending ideas leaves us thinking that Turner prize winners Wallinger and Whiteread might not have been trying very hard on this one, whereas Christine Borland's "We Think" involves a sculptured human tree limb into which visitors place coins and make wishes. A negative tracing of said tree is made in dust on glass suspended from the ceiling with the coins eventually smelted down into a commemorative plaque. Now that's thinking.
Go say hello to Mr Darwin, tell us your opinion of the canopy proposals and watch this space for more about Darwin 200.
Entry to the Natural History Museum is free and it's open daily 10.00 to 17.50. The Darwin's Canopy exhibition runs till 14 September 2008.