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Geneva exhibition honours our animal cousins

From stone carvings to portrayals by contemporary artists, the animal is the star of the show in the latest exhibition at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva. It brings together works from 7000BC up to the present day.

Museum curator Claude Ritschard points out that from the beginning of mankind, humans were very close to animals: "Man depended on them and probably didn't feel very different from them."

The relationship was a complex one, but Ritschard believed - and has proved - that it could be explained in a simple way. She says that from the way animals have been portrayed through the ages, it was an excellent theme: "What you see here is the tip of the iceberg from our collection. Other museums like this one also have many works featuring animals."

The exhibition consists of works from from Geneva's public and private collections, and visitors can see artists' visions of hunting the animals for food, venerating and sometimes subjecting them to ritual sacrifice, and domesticating them as objects of great affection. Paintings and sculptures of racehorses reflect their important role in sport.

Ritschard says that in modern times, a strange psychological relationship has developed between humans and animals, one often tinged with a sentimentality unique in world history. "I wanted to underline this by projecting videos of commercials in which animals have been used to sell all kinds of products."

The exhibition ends on September 24.

by Richard Dawson

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