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Provocative new exhibition to shine light on the existential threat to more than 20,000 bee species worldwide 

National Museums Liverpool and artist Wolfgang Buttress collaborate to create Bees: A Story of Survival – a dramatic fusion of art and science exploring the life of bees.

The product of 120 million years of evolution and with 20,000 known species, bees are vital to our planet’s ecosystems and essential to human existence.

In a unique partnership, World Museum, Liverpool and the award-winning artist and sculptor Wolfgang Buttress present the world premiere of Bees: A Story of Survival, an exhibition like no other. 

Using cutting-edge audio-visual technology, the exhibition explores the lives of bees from across the globe, transporting audiences into their world.

Led by changing soundscapes, visitors embark on a journey through eight immersive rooms. In a hive-like space, audiences will engage with bees, through a live stream directly into the heart of a living colony. Using sounds and smells, audiences follow a trail from trees to wildflower meadows, highlighting the impact of bees as pollinators of the natural world. 

A fusion of art, science and technology, Bees: A Story of Survival will bring to life what it is like to see and hear like a bee. The exhibition imagines and dramatically highlights the devastating impact of a world without these fascinating and essential creatures.

Wolfgang Buttress, said: “Bees can be seen as sentinels of the earth. They have been around for over 120 million years and are exquisitely tuned to the environment. Their health and wellbeing mirror the health of the Earth and they are dying in unprecedented numbers. Their existential challenges reflect our own – they die and suffer, we die and suffer.

“This exhibition was imagined to be like no other. The intention is to create an emotionally engaging and sensory stimulating experience to express the wonder and diversity of bees. I want the audience to feel empathy as well as an understanding and appreciation of these incredible creatures. If we love and respect bees a little bit more after seeing this exhibition, then we may well make the earth a better place for them and us to live in.”

Bridging the gap between sculpture, sound and science, Bees: A Story of Survival draws upon a decade of collaboration between artist Wolfgang Buttress and specialist in bee communication, Professor Martin Bencsik. Taking inspiration from his immensely popular 2015 installation The Hive at Kew Gardens, Buttress delves deep into the world of bees to create an emotional experience that will resonate long after audiences leave.

World Museum’s extensive entomology collection and specialist curators have played a key role in the development of Bees: A Story of Survival. With over 30,000 specimens of bees – including the UK’s rarest bee, Osmia xanthomelana, found only on a single site in North Wales – the museum’s natural history collections are used to support national and international research on the impact of environmental change on plant and animal populations.

Anne Fahy, head of World Museum, said: “An artwork and a science exhibition, Bees: A Story of Survival will push the boundaries of museum interpretation, educating and fascinating through a unique experience, and helping visitors to understand what we all can do to protect these intricate and resilient creatures. 

“Bees and other pollinators are vital to our planet’s ecosystems and essential to our own lives.  But their existence is under threat. Using World Museum’s nationally and internationally important entomology collection, and with the artistic vision of Wolfgang Buttress Studios, we want to shine a light on the plight of bees and the devastating impact a world without bees would have on humanity.”

A host of special events from talks with activists and artists, to creative sessions for young people and family friendly activities will accompany the exhibition. 

Bees: A Story of Survival opens at World Museum, part of National Museums Liverpool, on Saturday 4 May 2024, and runs until Saturday 5 May 2025. The exhibition is sponsored by lead partner Radisson RED Liverpool and premieres at World Museum, before embarking on a global tour. For more information visit: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/bees.

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