Feature

Art Bunnies

12.04.2017

ArtRabbit

When we set out to create a practical guide to contemporary art exhibitions and events, the idea of an “art rabbit” came up in a conversation about myriad voices and fast-spreading phenomena. 

We all immediately loved the name; it seemed both iconic and accessible. We wanted to help people browse art and pick shows they’d like to see, preparing their own ‘trails’ and hopping from one place to the next, armed with the curiosity, playfulness and confidence of a rabbit. ArtRabbit is all about combining serendipity and intention in exploring art, and the rabbit has been a loyal partner in our quest to make contemporary art as widely accessible as possible.

To celebrate this coming Easter Bank Holiday weekend we share with you our favourite bunnies.

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, Joseph Beuys, 1965 (WALTER VOGEL/BPK). In an early performance piece, gallery-goers watched through a window as Beuys walked up and down, head coated in honey and gold, explaining the pictures to a dead hare lying in his arms. There’s biting art-world satire in the ironic celebration of “explaining art” to the hopelessly captive, pliant creature, and Beuys’ gold-encrusted face looking down on it is an extremely powerful image.

Young Hare, Albrecht Dürer, 1502. Dürer depicted many hares in his work. They’re usually supporting or background characters, bearing all kinds of heavy symbolism. I like this one in particular because, by contrast, it’s simply a portrait of rabbit, naturalistic and almost scientific, gesturing towards Enlightenment ideals.

Rabbit, Jeff Koons, 1986 (JEFF KOONS/DOUGLAS M PARKER STUDIO). There’s no other artistic representation of a rabbit that highlights “quick, sharp and hard to get hold of” quite like this one. Made from polished stainless steel, it wraps the cute, vulnerable cuddliness of a bunny in a shiny shield of confidence and strength. The way it’s holding the carrot like a weapon is priceless. No one messes with this rabbit.

The White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The White Rabbit is pompous, nervy and anxious; a strong contrast to Alice’s innocent, youthful confidence. Yet the crazy world he led Alice into introduced her to all sorts of wonderful characters, and “following the white rabbit” has come to mean running with a strange idea or concept, just to see where it might take you. It might be somewhere worth getting to.

Moon Rabbit. Although we in the West think of a “Man in the Moon”, in other parts of the world the Hare or Rabbit is a far more familiar lunar inhabitant. In China, the Moon Rabbit is depicted mixing the elixir of immortality; in Japanese tradition, rabbits live on the moon, making sticky “mochi” rice cakes. I’m fascinated by how we all try to find patterns in all the same things, but often pick out completely different ones.

Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh. In Benjamin Hoff’s book “The Tao of Pooh”, Rabbit represents a Western, scientific, analytical way of thinking. He’s logical and rational but constantly gets himself into trouble by overthinking everything until he’s totally confused. Since reading this, whenever I feel I need to slow down and reconnect with things, I try to remember not to be too much like Rabbit.

* This article was originally published in The Times on 26 March 2016 under the title Six of the Best: Bunnies.