Fondation Cartier's New Immersive U.S. Exhibit Is Wild — Literally

So, it seems the call of the wild isn't coming from the jungle or the forrest — these days, you'll actually find it at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, MA.

We're of course talking about the Great Animal Orchestra, AKA a culmination of recordings from musician and soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause, which span nearly 50 years beginning with those from the 1970s. The immersive audio-visual experience, which was commissioned Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Cartier's foundation for contemporary art, is now on display until May 22, 2022. It's the first its commissioned in the U.S. in 20 years.

Some background of Krause: after producing music for The Doors and the Rolling Stones, as well working on iconic films such as Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, the artist left 'traditional' music behind and turned to the natural world. He began recording soundscapes across vulnerable habitats throughout North America, Latin America, Africa, as well as a collage of soundscapes from the depths of the world's oceans. In recent years, after returning to these exact sites, Krause found more than 50% of the recorded biodiversity no longer detectable. 

This exhibit in particular arose from collaboration with United Visual Artists (based in London), who created new software to visualize each animal's sound. According to Jane Winchell, PEM's Director of the Art & Nature Center and Curator of Natural History, "The Great Animal Orchestra is a highly original and memorable encounter that stays with you long after you leave. I found myself listening more intently and with greater awareness of how animal sounds serve as messengers of an ecosystem's vitality."

Since its inception, Cartier the brand has also drawn its inspiration from animals and nature. For instance, Jeanne Toussaint, the design director of jewelry who joined Cartier in 1913, even earned the nickname of "Petite Pantheré," a tribute to her bold spirit and love of felines. By 1948, the first three-dimensional Cartier Panthère brooch had been created for the Duchess of Windsor, using a 116.74 carat emerald from the Duke's collection.

Alongside chimeras and big cats, reptiles have also played a prominent part in Cartier's magical bestiary. Iconic Mexican actress Maria Felix's Sui Generis crocodile necklace is arguably one of the most famous jewelry pieces of all time. At first glance, the design features two crocodiles, both made of yellow gold — one with eyes of emerald cabochons and studded with 1,023 intense yellow diamonds, the other with ruby cabochon eyes and studded with 1,060 emeralds. However, depending on Felix's mood, or even the weather, they could be worn together as a necklace (in which case, smooth, clawless replacement feet could be attached) or separately as brooches. They could even be used as decorative objects.

The Great Animal Orchestra is meant to highlight environmental conservation, serving as a reminder to protect at-risk habitats and biodiversity. Given Cartier's long history and focus on all kinds of animals and their movement, the partnership couldn't be more perfect.

For more information on the exhibit and how to buy tickets, check out PEM's website.

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