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Since our ancestors first painted wild pig forms in Indonesian caves 45,500 years ago, animals have held particular significance for the human imagination. In Irish mythology, a child took the place of a hound to become the hero Cú Chulainn, while the emblem of a fish was used as a secret early Christian symbol across Europe. When tamed, animals are our companions and may stimulate calm or joy, but in the wild, they inspire curiosity, fascination, even terror.

Menagerie is a word that describes a diverse collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition. In the displayed works, historic and contemporary artists have captured animals in image, observing the behaviours of domesticated pets, feats of circus animals, and forms of their free-roaming cousins. Do these works of art convey a sense of possession, do we project our own ideas onto animals, or are we admitted, for a time, into the worlds of these curious creatures?

In this exhibition, animals abound in all shapes, sizes, and guises, from domestic spaces and farmyards to circus tents and natural habitats, and from cats, dogs, and goldfish to camels, monkeys, and falcons. What might we learn of animals seen through an artist’s eye?

Menagerie features the work of Sarah Atkinson, Alfred Bendiner, Sylvia Cooke-Collis, Elizabeth Cope, Helen Farrell, Jan de Fouw, Lotte Funke, Patrick Hennessy, Daniel Maclise, Norah McGuinness, Joe Neeson, Gretta O’Brien, Tony O’Malley, Walter Osborne, John Platt, Nano Reid, Gail Ritchie, Liu Yong Xian, and more.

Curated by Anne Boddaert, Kathryn Coughlan, Michael Waldron

(Photo Credit: Patrick Hennessy, Self Portrait and Cat, 1978)

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