Pierre Huyghe. Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) [Reclining female nude]. 2012. Concrete with beehive structure, wax, and live bee colony; figure: 29 1/2 x 57 1/16 x 17 11/16" (75 x 145 x 45 cm), base: 11 13/16 x 57 1/16 x 21 5/8" (30 x 145 x 55 cm), beehive dimensions variable. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © 2015 Pierre Huyghe

On view for the first time since its recent acquisition, French artist Pierre Huyghe’s sculpture Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) [Reclining Female Nude], 2012, incorporates a live colony of a gentle breed of bees, which serves as the head of a concrete cast of an idealized female nude. This tour de force of Huyghe’s oeuvre reflects his concern with living systems, and the timing of the sculpture’s display is determined by the natural cycle of the bee colony, which is most active during the summer months. Operating according to its own natural logic, the colony introduces a dynamic community into the Sculpture Garden’s summer installation.

The living beehive serves as the nude’s head, but also, by extension, her brain. The collective thought processes of bees—their “hive mentality”—have long been studied in relation to human political and social organization. Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) [Reclining Female Nude] explores these affinities and emphasizes the ancient, symbiotic relationship between humans and honeybees, which, in building their hive, collaborate in the creation of the sculpture.

Over the past 25 years, Huyghe has created a remarkable body of work that includes film, sculpture, installation, and activities that playfully and poetically investigate the physical and temporal experiences of living beings, human and animal. Whether organizing an expedition to Antarctica or producing sculptures that incorporate living creatures, from dogs to bees to hermit crabs, Huyghe has helped push the boundaries of art making and audience engagement by inviting a variety of beings, human and not, to become empathetic participants who experience his work and are at the same time, a part of it.

Beekeeping services for this installation provided by Andrew Cote of Andrew’s Honey.

Organized by Laura Hoptman, Curator, and Margaret Ewing, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden Exhibitions are made possible by a partnership with Volkswagen of America.

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