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New zoo inspires animal art exhibition

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What’s new? In the world of zoos, the opening of the newly designed Paris Zoo is headline news this month. Animal lovers have been lining up to see their favorite species and the nearby suburb of Saint Mande has built on the publicity and popularity with a special exhibition of animal art. This opened the same day as the preview of the new zoo, on April 11. Now it is demonstrating a format that will appeal to the large community involved with our own San Diego Zoo. That is to feature a world tour of animal art in miniature with stamps featuring zoos around the world next to a large exhibition of contemporary art portraying animals by local artists. This art is also offered for sale to help keep the exhibition open to the public for free.

Displaying animal art on postage stamps is an ideal way to highlight differences in the way animals are interpreted by artists in other countries at the same time that the genre of animal art unites people around the world in their admiration for the animal kingdom. The Kingdom of Morocco, for example, features the theme of royalty on all of its animal art stamps. This nation on the northern edge of the Sahara desert incorporates desert landscapes in the background of all of the animal art in this special exhibition. These vibrant reminders of how beautiful and diverse desert landscapes can be are also a good reminder for local readers to put the “Living Desert” in Palm Desert on their list of local attractions to see this year. By contrast, examples of animal art from the rarely seen Pyongyang Zoo in North Korea have minimalist white space backgrounds that portray animals at work and serve as a reminder how much humans depend on animals for our quality of life.

Animal art from the Moscow Zoo reflects the tradition of ornamentation of miniatures that Russian artists distinguished in the decoration of Faberge eggs. They are also good examples of sophisticated color printing techniques applied to the small format of postage stamps that are also reminders of how animals and animal art bring more vibrant color to our world. The Budapest Zoo demonstrates how postage stamp designs can converge with advertising art. Each of the stamp designs was also used for large format posters featuring the zoo and its animal community.

Australia’s animals are so popular in other zoos that they are frequent features in animal art around the world. Australia’s own animal art postage stamps focus exclusively on these famed animal ambassadors – the wallaby, the koala, the wombat, the spiny anteater, the Tasmanian tiger, and of course, the kangaroo. The Stockholm Zoo exhibit features another national trait – folk art. Animal art from the Ivory Coast in West Africa reflects another hallmark of local artistic traditions, the extraordinary bright colors used in dyes for textiles. This exhibition also spotlights the role that charismatic animals can play as goodwill ambassadors. Australia and China have issued a special stamp using the same design featuring koalas in the Beijing Zoo.

The accompanying exhibit of contemporary animal art shows how a new generation of artists is taking its cues from the beauty of nature. From a white on white image of a polar bear hibernating, to majestic sculptures and three dimensional views of birds taking flight, this exhibition shows what visitors of the animal art at the San Diego Zoo have long appreciated. That is that the natural beauty and innate grandeur of animals inspires artists to emulate their endearing characteristics.