Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) [Reclining female nude] (2012), which was recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is now on view in its sculpture garden, is a concrete female nude with a beehive for a head. Are there live bees, you ask? Yes, indeed, there are. (“Please be aware of the bees’ presence and take caution when viewing the sculpture,” the museum writes in a FAQ about the sculpture, available on MoMA’s website.) Because those bees are very much alive, MoMA hired Andrew Coté, a local beekeeper, to visit the hive twice a day and oversee the bees.
In an interview on Inside/Out, MoMA’s blog, Coté sheds some light on what it’s like to care for the bees and, by extension, Huyghe’s sculpture. “In regards to special considerations when installing Untilled in the Sculpture Garden,” Coté tells curatorial assistant Margaret Ewing in the interview, “we wanted to establish a natural barrier that would prevent people from coming too close to the hive for the safety and protection of both the bees and the public, yet not interrupt the viewing pleasure for John Q. Public. I believe that was well handled.” For a work about the divisions between nature and humanity, Coté’s comments feel fitting.
Coté also reveals a few other strange details about bees in the art world—for example, that Greene Naftali houses a beehive, and that Yoko Ono “stopped by to greet” MoMA’s bees. And if you are wondering how to make like Ono and greet the bees on Huyghe’s sculpture, Coté says to make sure not to panic. “[Honeybees] are docile, not at all interested in stinging or harming anyone (if a bee approaches you, just calmly walk away, without flailing your arms or screaming), and are only interested in the pursuit of nectar, pollen, and water,” Coté says in the interview.
But, if Coté’s interview didn’t alleviate your bee phobia and you still don’t want to get up-close with Huyghe’s sculpture, MoMA has also made available what it has termed a “bee-cam” of Untilled. The “bee-cam,” in all of its 462 minutes of glory, is embedded below.