Paradise Lost: A New Exhibition By Artist Jan Hendrix Debuts at Kew Gardens Next Spring

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • /
  • September 26, 2019

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Tierra Firme, Jan Hendrix
Oliver Santana

A landmark exhibition by artist Jan Hendrix is coming to Kew Gardens, London, in April 2020

Paradise Lost by Jan Hendrix, is on view from April to 20 September 2020 in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

Paradise Lost, a new and innovative exhibition by Dutch-born, Mexico-based artist Jan Hendrix, was officially announced at the recent Hay Festival in Queretaro, Mexico. 

A unique marriage of science and art, the exhibition at Kew Gardens in London is inspired by a journey made by one of the most important yet relatively unknown figures in British science, Sir Joseph Banks. Banks was a young scientist on board the HMS Endeavour captained by James Cook on its famed exploration of the South Pacific in 1768. On this voyage, Banks collected cuttings from more than 1,000 species of plant that were previously unknown in Europe, launching his career as a world-renowned botanist. Banks later went on to be Kew’s first unofficial director under whose oversight Kew Gardens flourished as a centre of botanical research. The year 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Joseph Banks’ death.


The 124 plant specimens collected and preserved in 1770 by Banks and his colleagues at the Endeavour River in Queensland, and Botany Bay in Sydney, Australia, form the foundation of Hendrix’s exhibition at Kew. Carefully pressed at the time in a copy of the poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost, these collections are now held in the Natural History Museum, London. Botany Bay was named by Captain Cook in honour of Banks and fellow botanist and crew member, Daniel Solander. Since Australia’s colonisation the bay has been transformed by development. The exhibition will recall the memory of the area as it was documented by Banks 250 years ago and its subsequent changes.

The Temperate House, Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens

Following this theme, Hendrix will focus on these changing landscapes in Paradise Lost, the first being the landscape that Cook and Banks encountered when they arrived. The second is the landscape transformed by man’s intervention.

Within this context, the show has been conceived of two elements engaged in a dialogue – the first is some related historical material from Banks’ expedition, and the second is the contemporary pieces created by Hendrix, including exquisite enamel plates and contemporary drawings based on Banks’ herbarium sheets.

The centrepiece of the gallery will be a ‘folly’, the Mirror Palace Pavilion, the form of which is inspired by two plant species named after Banks and Daniel Solander, Banksia serrata and Banksia solandri.

Visitors will be able to walk through the pavilion in a truly immersive experience. The exhibition will also feature a series of floating wall mounted bronzes representing seed and fern forms, silk screens on silver leaf, a series of glass pieces and a moving image work created by Jan Hendrix in collaboration with filmmaker Michael Leggett specifically for the show at Kew.

Banksia serrata

Maria Devaney, Galleries and Exhibitions Leader, RBG Kew says:We cannot think of anyone better to highlight Joseph Banks’ contribution to botanical science through the prism of contemporary art than Jan Hendrix. Jan’s long-standing interest in the life and work of Banks coupled with his passion for plants and nature lays the foundation for what promises to be a ground-breaking exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery.

"The exhibition will offer an opportunity to bring to the attention of arts audiences the impact that we have as human beings on the planet, by using the example of Botany Bay and how it was irrevocably changed after 1770. We hope that our visitors will find it a thought provoking yet beautiful experience,” she added.

A book to accompany the exhibition will also be published by Kew Publishing.

Hendrix was born in the Netherlands in 1949, he has lived in Mexico City since 1978. His works range from artist’s books, print editions, enamel installations, etched glass, and paintings, to large-scale architectural projects. He has held an average of three to four exhibitions a year since 2000 In recent years he has collaborated with numerous architects and is currently working on the façade of the new Mexican Museum in San Francisco. In 2019 Tierra Firme – was presented at MUAC, Mexico City until September 22nd and will be presented in the Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Holland, from November 24th 2019 to April 26, 2020, and the Museo Espacio, Aguascalientes, from December 5th 2019 to May 3rd, 2020.

His work is featured in public and private collections around the world. Collaborations with book authors include Seamus Heaney, Gabriel García Márquez, Paolo Ruffilli, Bert Schierbeek and Homero Aridjis.

In 2012, Jan Hendrix was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest Mexican award given to foreigners for his work in art and architecture. In 2019 he was made a Knight of the Order of Oranje-Nassau by the Royal House of the Netherlands.

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