CAIRO – 26 September 2022: "No vacuum cleaners, no feather dusters." This is the order issued to the cleaning staff at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
As part of an exhibition that explores perceptions of insects in art and science through the ages, the Dutch National Museum of Insects has allowed insects to thrive in its crevices and nooks for the past three months.
Julia Kantelberg, the museum's curatorial assistant, said Tomás Saraceno, an Argentine artist based in Berlin, encouraged them to appreciate the accumulation of spider webs wherever they appeared.
She said the interwoven webs of insects are treated as pieces of art, as if they were The Night Watch by the famous Dutch artist Rembrandt or The Milkmaid by Vermeer, two of the museum's masterpieces.
“Saraceno challenged us to acknowledge the spider webs we already coexist with at the Rijksmuseum. This means that we had to change our procedures and not remove spiders and their webs from public places. Three months before the exhibition opened, cleaners were asked not to remove spiders and their webs. I've been roaming around every week since then to find out where the networks started popping up," explained Kantelberg.
Those visiting the museum for the inaugural exhibition on September 30 will explore how spider webs have changed over time. They will also be asked to reconsider their feelings about insects of all shapes and sizes.
In the Middle Ages, lizards, insects, and spiders were associated with death and the devil in European culture, but the exhibition notes that in the 16th and 17th centuries there was a re-imagining of the role of insects after the microscope allowed artists and scientists to appreciate beauty that wasn't always so obvious.