When I was in Sweden I had the opportunity to meet the amazing Carsten Höller, who attempted to convince me he wasn’t a “bird nerd.” I wrote about it for the New York Times’ T Magazine.
“Beautiful, no?” Höller says, pointing to a Siberian rubythroat darting around a large cage in what was once the guest room of his Stockholm apartment. The artist, known for his playful, participatory installations — tube slides that span multiple floors, rooms with giant mushrooms hanging from the ceiling — has spent the past several years filling his personal aviaries with feathered friends acquired from Belgium, Italy, Holland and Germany.
Höller also meticulously photographs his collection, tracking each bird’s development from egg to adult. “They look quite beautiful when they are older,” he says. “But in the beginning, they look like aliens.” In addition to incorporating the birds into his 2011 exhibition at the New Museum in New York, he has been making photogravures of one-of-a-kind canary crossbreeds with the Danish artist Niels Borch Jensen. “I just don’t know where it comes from,” the former agricultural entomologist says of his obsession. Certainly not his mother: “She’s like, ‘What kind is this?’ and I say, ‘I’ve told you like a hundred times, that’s a song thrush! It’s very easy to recognize!’ ”