The National Museum of Animal Art exhibits while they sleep: a bear story


Carl Rungius (United States, born Germany, 1869–1959). Old Man of the Mountains, 1930. Oil on canvas. 34 x 39 inches. JKM® collection. National Museum of Animal Art.

Robert McCauley (United States, born 1946). The Only West Left is the One in Your Head, 2014. Oil on canvas on panel. 24 x 36 inches. JKM® Collection, National Museum of Animal Art, W2014.037.004. © Robert McCauley.

Opening on October 23, 2021, While they sleep: a bear story offers compelling visions of the North American grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis), black (American Ursus) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the permanent collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The exhibition will be on view until May 15, 2022.

On Friday, October 22, from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., join the museum for a special preview of the exhibition with guest speaker, wildlife photographer and environmentalist Thomas D. Mangelsen. This is an exciting opportunity to preview a new exhibit before it opens to the public. This event is free for Museum members and included in the price of general admission.

A special section of While they sleep honors the beloved resident of Grand Teton National Park, Grizzly 399, through stunning photographs of Mangelsen. Her images reveal intimate scenes from her life in the wild, including her current litter of four captivating cubs.

In this exhibit, bears traverse windy mountains and icy tundra, fight with bison, travel with wolves, and appear as dreamlike apparitions. The moods and messages of the works of art on display range from 1846 to 2019, demonstrating how human values ​​and beliefs have defined and redefined bears over the past two centuries, from hunting trophies to scientific specimens, devoted mothers or supernatural beings.

Almost Home, Thomas D Mangelsen,

The earliest works of sports artists document impressive bears in their prime to celebrate the abundance of wildlife in North America and advance early scientific knowledge. Other European-American artists of the past have used bears to satire human behavior or as an icon of a vast wilderness. Today, a diverse group of artists create works that express a fluidity between the human and animal worlds, with bears acting as messengers of personal emotions and experiences, pressing environmental issues, and cultural narratives.

While they sleep is also a bear story told by prominent bear biologists who have spent their lives with these animals and offers fascinating perspectives on the works of art on display. As you view this exhibit, think about the question posed by artists and scientists: Why do bears hold so tightly to the human imagination?

Please note: this exhibit takes place during the winter months when grizzly bears and black bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are in hibernation – While they sleep.

While they sleep is generously sponsored by Jan & Bob Benz, Stephanie Brennan, The Brooks Foundation, Marnie Peterson-Coin & Tasso Coin, Halloran, Farkas and Kitilla, LLP, In Celebration of Elizabeth McCabe, Kent Nelson, Thomas Gilcrease Foundation and Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.


About Carlos V. Mitchell

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