Visual Arts Exhibition at the NIH Celebrates Tulips and Technology

Anna Fine Foer is one of our 2018 grantees. 

Below is an upcoming exhibition , which opens. January 11, 2019 at the Clinical Center at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Press Release

Visual Arts Exhibition at the NIH Celebrates Tulips and Technology

A Code for Tulips, collage and drawing on vellum, 30”h, 22”w, 2018

A series of 12 collages by renowned artist Anna Fine Foer will be displayed in an upcoming exhibition at the National Institutes of Health titled, “Tulipmania. ”The exhibition will be on display from January 11, 2019 —March 1, 2019 at the Clinical Center at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in Maryland.

The exhibition includes reflection and research on the financial impact of the “Tulipmania” that occurred in the 1630s in Holland. The exhibition also explores the tulips ancestry back to Turkey, the ornamental history of the tulip pattern, pigmentation experimentation, and seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch botanical illustration.

The exhibition also results from collaboration with a microbiologist, a Principal Investigator at National Institutes of Health.  Partial financial support was provided by the Randall Frank Contemporary Artist Grant Program and the Giving Spirit Foundation Unicorn Barn Project.

Mosaic Virus, collage and watercolour, 30”h, 22”w, 2018

My collaborative partner suggested that I work with transposons, also known as genetic mutations.  A few years ago, I read Michael Pollans book The Botany of Desire and was intrigued by the tulip chapter that described how the variegated type were the most desired at the height of the tulip trade in Holland, in the 1630s. Centuries later, it was discovered that the varigations were the result of genetic mutationsThe project visualizes the tulip genome, and other Tulipmania themes. I found a geneticist who recently sequenced the tulip genome, working for tulip breeders in Leiden, where the first tulip garden was grown.  He shared the raw data with me through an instrument called MinIon (made by Oxford Nanopore.) At Oxford Nanopores conference in London May 2018, my collage A Code for Tulips, made of prints of the tulip genome, was reproduced on a large scale and displayed.Anna Fine Foer

After emmigrating to Israel, Anna worked as a textile conservator in Haifa and Tel-Aviv. She studied at the Textile Conservation Centre, Courtauld Institute in London, where she received a Post-Graduate Diploma in Textile Conservation. Later, back in the United States, Anna worked in conservation for the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C and at the same time constructed collage landscapes with sacred, political and meta-physical significance, depicting three or more dimensions on a two-dimensional plane. Her work has been exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Maryland Governor’s Mansion, the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. and elsewhere and is in the permanent collection of the Haifa Museum of Art, and the Beer-Sheva Biblical Museum.

The exhibition is an unexpected and innovative use of technique and technology.

The mission of the Clinical Center’s Fine Art Program is to pair art with medicine to promote healing in an aesthetically pleasing environment for patients, caregivers and employees. Artwork in the collection is carefully selected and placed for its healing potential and artistic quality.

About the images

A Code for Tulips – The images used are the result of the first time the tulip genome was sequenced using Oxford Nanopore technology, thanks to a geneticist from Leiden, NL. The collaged DNA sequences express the variegated petals that were the most desired during Tulipmania. Three centuries later, scientists understood this variation in a tulip’s petals was the result of a virus that caused mutations to the tulip genome. The prints are black text on white background and vice versa to illustrate the binary aspect of a gene; it is either on or off.

Mosaic Virus During Tulipmania (Netherlands 1630-37) the most desired tulip petals were striated due to a virus. Eventually, it was a series of bulb manipulation experiments begun in 1928 by Dorothy Cayley at the John Innes Horticultural Institution in Merton, South London, England that led to the discovery of the virus. The virus is known as the tulip break virus, lily streak virus, or tulip mosaic virus. The name of the virus is a central motif in this collage, with a traditional mosaic floor pattern in the shape of a double helix. The helix patterns are collaged with prints of the mosaic virus DNA sequence. The floor also is the fertile ground for a tulip garden, complete with tulips cut out of a visualization of the mosaic virus. The mosaic pattern is made with pigment colour charts referencing an attempt to standardize that which defies regulation, as was the case during Tulipmania.

Tulipa ex Machina  –  The composition expresses engineered, human intervention into the propogation of tulip bulbs to create the desired effects; those of striated, variegated petals that were the most desirable during Tulipmania.

Tulipa ex Machina, watercolour, 30”h, 22”w, 2018


Contact Information:

Lillian Fitzgerald, Coordinator

Clinical Center Art Program



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