Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art

June 10 – September 17, 2023

Special exhibitions are included with museum admission.

Exhibition Overview

Explore the meaning of wildlife art within the context of contemporary art. Organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art, this exhibition considers the diverse ways contemporary artists use animal imagery to address humanity’s interconnectedness with the natural world.

The title of this exhibition is a play on Charles Darwin’s concept of natural selection from his pivotal writing, On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s ideas contributed much to the development of wildlife art in the late 1800s, as artists began to represent animals in natural habitats, enacting natural behaviors. The artists in this exhibit represent another stage in the evolution of animal art: choosing to represent animals in alternative, unnatural spaces—spaces more often directly linked to civilization than to wilderness.

Comprised of works exclusively from the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s permanent collection, this exhibition offers a wide range of works in a variety of media divided into four thematic sections: Tradition, Politics, Science, and Aesthetics. These realms act as overlapping chapters, investigating the ways we use animal imagery to tackle human concerns.

“Enthusiasts of the museum’s wildlife art will love how this family-friendly exhibition explores new ways of understanding animals and the spaces they inhabit,” says The James Museum Curator of Art Emily Kapes.


Join us for the exclusive member reception for Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art. You will have the opportunity to preview the exhibition before it opens to the public and mingle with fellow members. Members can also preview the exhibition on June 8 & 9 during museum hours.

Space is limited; registration required for the Member Reception. 

Date & TIME

Thursday, June 8
Free for members
6 – 8 p.m. 

Image and Exhibition Credits


Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art is organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
Generous support provided by Art Bridges.

William Sweetlove (Belgian, b. 1949), Cloned Penguin with PET Bottle (Pink), 2013. Plastic resin.
Purchased with funds generously donated by Jocelyn Emery, Carolynn Hawtin, Pui Miller, Rosie and Shelby Reed, Katie Robertson, Amy Staehr, and Jeanie Staehr, National Museum of Wildlife Art. M2017.006.004

Emily Lamb (England, b. 1980), Lioness, 2014. Oil on canvas. 56 × 78 inches. Gift of the 2015 Collectors Circle, National Museum of Wildlife Art. © Emily Lamb. M2015.119

Juan Fontanive (United States, b. 1977), Colorthing, 2015. Screen print on Bristol paper, stainless steel, motor, and electronics. 5 1/4 × 4 1/4 × 4 inches. Gift of the 2017 Blacktail Gala, National Museum of Wildlife Art. © Juan Fontanive. M2017.002.001