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Art & Science

Exhibit Tulip Mania series by Anna Fine Foer at BplusC

Tulip Mania Leiden, together with BplusC, has installed a special exhibition at the location Merenwijk. Tulip Mania proudly presents the series of twelve collages/watercolors,  "Tulip Mania"  by the American artist Anna Fine Foer, which she made during the period 2016-2018. The works show different aspects of the Tulip Mania during the 17th century, but also show parallels with current cryptocurrency trading. Anna Fine Foer collaborated with scientists from Leiden University who started sequencing and mapping the tulip genome at the time. The DNA code of the tulip can be found in a number of her art works. The works at BplusC are prints of the originals. 

Biography Anna Fine Foer
Anna Fine Foer is an American artist living and working in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, who is inspired by scientific concepts. She has created watercolor collages about quantum mechanics, fractals, augmented reality and Einstein's thought experiments. She is trained in textile conservation and feels comfortable delving into scientific topics and also sees her work as an experiment.


Photo Anna Fine Foer.jpeg

A few years ago she read the book “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan and was intrigued by its chapter on the "tulip mania" in the Netherlands in the 1630s, in which the striped type tulip was particularly prized. Centuries later, it was discovered that these "mosaic" tulips were caused by viruses that resulted in genetic mutations known as transposons. When she asked a microbiologist to collaborate on a project for an exhibit at the National Institutes of Health in 2018, he suggested she works with 

transposons with which she was already familiar with through Pollan's book.  She took the microbiologist's suggestion and incubated the project with a focus on experimenting with visualizing aspects of the tulip genome and other themes from the tulip mania. Through connections with scientists, she found a Dutch biologist from Leiden University who was sequencing the tulip genome and shared his preliminary results with her. He used a relatively new technology called MinIOn, specially developed to sequence long genomes like that of the tulip, which are more than 10 times longer than the human genome. She has used the genetic code in her watercolor collages and created a series illustrating different aspects of a tulip's story; the financial impact during the Tulip Mania in the early seventeenth century in the Netherlands, the tulip's ancestors dating back to Turkey and Central Asia, the ornamental history of the tulip pattern (a popular motif used in Turkish textile and ceramic design and on illuminated manuscripts), pigmentation experiments done during Tulip Mania, the botanical and chemical elements of a tulip and an exploration of historical botanical illustrations, specifically Dutch, seventeenth and eighteenth century examples.

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Mosaic Virus - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage and watercolor 75x55cm

Mosaic virus - Anna Fine Foer

During the Tulip Mania (Netherlands 1630-37) the most popular tulips were striped, which was caused by a virus. Ultimately, it was a series of bulb manipulation experiments done 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 tulip break virus, lily streak virus, or tulip mosaic virus. The name of the virus is a central motif in this collage, featuring a traditional mosaic floor pattern in the shape of a double helix. The helix patterns are collaged together with prints of the mosaic virus DNA sequence. The floor is also the fertile ground for a tulip garden, complete with tulips carved from a mosaic virus image.

The mosaic pattern is made with pigment color charts that refer to an attempt to standardize that which defies regulation, as was the case during Tulip Mania.

A Code for Tulips - Anna Fine Foer

The images used are the result of the first time the tulip genome was sequenced using Oxford Nanapore technology, MinION, thanks to a geneticist from Leiden. The collages of DNA sequences express the variegated petals most loved during Tulip Mania. Three centuries later, scientists understood that this variation in the petals was the result of a virus that caused mutations in the tulip genome.  Prints are black text on white background and inverted to illustrate the binary aspect of a gene; it's on or off.  

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A code for Tulips - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage and drawing on percament 75x55cm


Sprinkle Gold Dust – Anna Fine Foer


During the Tulip Mania (Netherlands, 1630s), alchemical experiments such as sprinkling gold dust on bulbs were performed in an attempt to force the most desired variegated petal patterns, without understanding what caused the disturbance of the solid colored petals . Gold, bronze and silver coins break off; scattered and aligned between tulips, made of orizomegami (Japanese folded and dyed paper). The charts show the fluctuations of the currency; gold versus euros, gold versus dollars, etc. to reflect the speculative trade of tulip bulbs as currency.

Sprinkle Gold Dust - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage; 3-dimensional painted by hand rice paper, metallic paper; 60x90cm

Hortus Botanicus – Anna Fine Foer


The oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands is where the Tulip Mania came to full bloom. Mirrors were placed in the garden to create the illusion of an abundance of flowers. At the bottom of the composition is a collage as a tribute to a Rennaisance cabinet of curiosities.

Hortus Botanicus - ©Anna Fine Foer
2018 collage; 3-dimensional painted paper flowers, mirror paper; 75x55cm

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Hashtag Block Chain Tulips – Anna Fine Foer

Cryptocurrency code and illustrations of a decentralized network, also known as block-chain, are used in this collage to create stylized tulips arranged around block formations. The first speculation bubble was Tulip Mania in the 1630s, not much different from the madness surrounding today's bitcoin trade.

Hashtag Block Chain Tulips - ©Anna Fine Foer
2022 Collage, 3 dimensional, diagrams;
75x55 cm

The above 5 artworks were part of the 12-part Tulip Mania series that was shown at different locations of BplusC in Leiden.

New work by Anna Fine Foer

After the exhibits of Anna's work at BplusC in 2022, Tulip Mania Leiden started working closely with the artist. Her Tulip Mania series fits seamlessly with the project and Anna has an extraordinary interest in preserving biodiversity in the soil as well as life above it. Her collages, combined with watercolor, bring art and science together in an intriguing way. In 2023, she started new work that is directly inspired by the research of Tulpenmanie Leiden.
A sneak peek:


Rijkswaterstaat: Unpaving the Garden - ©Anna Fine Foer, 2023 collage and watercolor, 3- dimensional, 75x55cm

Rijkswaterstaat: Unpaving the Garden©Anna Fine Foer

In recent years, environmentally friendly initiatives have been taken place in the Netherlands, including friendly competition between municipalities to remove paving stones from the gardens. The aim of this green action is to increase biodiversity and replenish groundwater. In the collage, the raindrops disappear into the earth through the holes in broken Delft blue tiles and nourish the tulip bulbs.

Detail Rijkswaterstaat: Unpaving the Garden - ©Anna Fine Foer

Nurture or Nature - ©Anna Fine Foer, 2023 collage and watercolor, 45x40cm

Nurture or Nature - ©Anna Fine Foer

The amount of groundwater in the Netherlands has been depleted in recent years. One of the initiatives taken by local municipalities to replenish groundwater reserves is to encourage homeowners to remove their garden tiles. This action is depicted with collages of Delft tiles with windmill patterns that refer to past attempts to remove groundwater for agricultural purposes. These initiatives are welcomed by tulip growers as a way to improve the biodiversity and health of the soil that nourishes the tulip bulbs. 

Fragmented Firmament - ©Anna Fine Foer, 2023 collage and watercolor, 56x37.5cm

Fragmented Firmament - ©Anna Fine Foer

Recently there have been friendly competitions between municipalities in the Netherlands to remove paving stones from gardens.  This seemingly small act will replenish much-needed groundwater reserves. The iconic Delft tile has been used to represent the dismantled paving stones. Decorations on the broken tiles refer to the commodification of the land and the sea. Windmills drained the land for agricultural use and the ship's drawing references the Dutch economic success due to their dominance of trade routes that coincided with the 17th century trading frenzy known as Tulip Mania. Tulips are grown in microbe-rich soil.

Nieuw werk AFF
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