Landmark art exhibition: vivid perspectives on our natural world

Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve at Kew Gardens

Release date: 15 September 2021

  • Acclaimed artist Zadok Ben-David brings work to Kew Gardens for first time
  • First standalone UK show since 2008
  • 360-degree installation ‘Blackfield’ is made up of over 17,000 etched flowers, each installed by hand
  • From 16 October 2021 – 27 March 2022 at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
  • Press view: Thursday 14 October from 10am / RSVP: pr@kew.org

Internationally renowned artist and sculptor Zadok Ben-David brings his award-winning work to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens this autumn. Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve is the first solo exhibition to incorporate new and existing works by the artist in the UK since 2008. The exhibition centres on themes of tragedy and hope, focusing on the constantly evolving, often fragile relationship between humanity and the natural world.

Blackfield

This new headline exhibition includes Blackfield, a breathtaking installation presented in the UK for the first time since 2007. Containing over 17,000 steel etched flowers and assembled entirely by hand, Blackfield plays upon sensations of perception and perspective, and has been exhibited to sustained critical and public acclaim in over 20 countries worldwide.

The wider exhibition

The exhibition will also feature work including Winter Lights, a large Corten steel sculpture outside the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. The piece takes the form of a tree comprised of interlinked human silhouettes and rusts when exposed to the elements. This process forms a constantly regenerating protective coating, allowing the sculpture to constantly evolve and mirror the changing seasons in nature.

Additionally, Natural Reserve will also include a new wall-mounted works derived from 19th century botanical illustrations contained within Kew’s archive, on display to the public for the first time.

Other works on display as part of this landmark exhibition include Ben-David’s Conversation Peace, incorporating depictions of trees, butterflies, insects, flowers and human shapes and The Other Side of Midnight, a three-metre circle comprised of over 2,000 miniature hand-painted butterflies and insects which bursts into vivid, colourful life for visitors to contemplate during their visit to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

Zadok Ben-David says: “The relationship between humanity and nature is one which is central to my work. I have always been fascinated by the idea of how humans rely on nature for survival yet seem to forget this essential fact in everyday life. Presenting this new exhibition within the context of Kew as a world-leader in ecological conservation only reinforces this theme; that humans are an intrinsic part of nature rather than separate from it. I’m delighted to be able to share my work, including some new and expanded pieces with visitors to Kew, particularly as the messages of this exhibition have never felt more important.

Maria Devaney, Galleries and Exhibitions Leader at RBG Kew adds: “Zadok Ben-David has long been at the forefront of creating art inspired by the relationship between humanity and the natural world, and it’s wonderful to be able to showcase the sheer variety and scope of his creations with this new exhibition at Kew. The themes of his work and this exhibition feel particularly timely in light of the climate crisis which we are facing, and in the wake of a global pandemic which has highlighted this precarious balance firsthand.

Musician Peter Gabriel, collaborator of Zadok Ben-David, reflects: “There is an open unpretentious warmth and a timeless humanity to Zadok Ben-David’s work that has always attracted me. With his familiar human silhouettes, he shows us where we fit in the natural world: we are part of it and it is part of us. Trees, flowers, butterflies and animals all find their way inside his human forms and private worlds- a journey he explores confidently, expertly, with love and human to reflect on our wider collective experience.

A book to accompany the exhibition will be published by Kew Publishing, with contributing essay by Yael Guilat.

Alongside the exhibition (16 October 2021 to 27 March 2022) a display of exquisite paintings from the Shirley Sherwood Collection will be shown in Gallery 6. ‘Elegant and enchanting – botanical art from Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and Malaysia’ will showcase a variety of works from contemporary artists across the Asia Pacific region. As well as this, No Plants, No Planet, a virtual exhibition by the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) looks at the crucial role which plants play in the health of our planet in preserving biodiversity, and supports a key discussion theme ahead of COP26.

 

What we are doing to keep visitors safe 

The safety and wellbeing of our visitors is of the utmost importance to us and we are continually monitoring and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic as it evolves. We are adhering to government advice in our planning to ensure visitors and staff remain safe while enjoying Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve. Safety measures will reflect government advice at the time of the exhibition run and will be clearly communicated across RBG Kew’s channels and onsite.

ENDS

Admission to the exhibition is included in a ticket to Kew Gardens.

We recommend that visitors pre-book timed entry slots online via the website www.kew.org

For more information, images or to RSVP to the press view, please contact the Press Office at pr@kew.org.

Notes to Editors

About Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew Gardens’ 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

About Zadok Ben-David

Zadok Ben-David is an award-winning, London based artist, widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks. Ben-David explores themes linked to human nature and evolution. His work is often referred to as poetic and magical, always oscillating between delicate miniature-work and monumental installations. Metalworking has become Ben-David’s preferred language in contrast to the subtle optical illusions that he creates thanks to a sometimes-rough medium.

​Ben-David represented his country Israel at the Venice Biennale in 1988 and participated to numerous biennales worldwide. His works are exhibited in illustrious national museums and art galleries across Europe, Australia, America, Central Asia and the Middle East.

​Born in Bayhan, Yemen in 1949, Ben-David immigrated to Israel the same year and graduated in Advanced Sculpture from St. Martin’s School of Art, in London, where he taught from 1977-1982.

About the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

Located at Kew Gardens in London, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the world’s first display space dedicated solely to this genre. Since it was opened in 2008 by Sir David Attenborough, the gallery has held over 50 exhibitions, welcomed more than a million visitors, and become the hub of the worldwide renaissance of botanical art. Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE studied botany at Oxford University before starting the Shirley Sherwood Collection in 1990. Thirty years on, the Collection includes over 1,000 paintings and drawings, representing the work of over 300 contemporary botanical artists from 36 countries around the world. The collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been a huge success, with the gallery showcasing a huge diversity of botanical art, raising the profile of the genre and the plants it portrays. Its walls have seen paintings by renowned artists such as Margaret Mee and Rory McEwen, and collections from Brazil, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and the USA. As well as displaying pieces from the Shirley Sherwood Collection, the gallery hosts a roster of genre-pushing exhibitions by independent artists. Recent examples include the intricate graphite drawings of the UK’s oldest oak trees by Mark Frith, an immersive installation by British artist Rebecca Louise Law, and sculptures by Dale Chihuly and David Nash. In 2020/21 it hosted Paradise Lost by Jan Hendrix, and continues to explore ideas that question humans’ relationship with the natural world, drawing upon RBG Kew’s own collections and vital scientific research.