It’s hard to overstate the importance of fungi. Without them, life on Earth would be unsustainable. But fungi could be threatened like animals and plants, fungi are vulnerable to mass extinction. Nonetheless, despite their diversity and importance, fungi are among the most neglected organisms in conservation policies. The list IUCN (International Union for the Nature Conservation), the main tool to inform and catalyze conservation actions worldwide, lists only 545 species of fungi between 81569 animals and 56245 plants. Despite being threatened, less than 0.4% of the fungal species described to date had its conservation status rated.
For much of their life cycle, most fungi live under the shape of an ingrained network, the mycelium, hidden from the human eye. But there are species that show themselves for a few days a year, when their fruit bodies, the mushrooms, appear and become notable elements of the landscape. The artist Sofia Arez delicately and affectionately painted the mushrooms she found on her walks. The result are intimate portraits of these mushrooms, which serve as a record of their brief existence for future generations. Sofia Arez’s watercolours, like metaphors of ephemerality, invite visitors to the detour exhibition to reflect on our connection to the fungi (did you know that they form the closest living kingdom to humans?) and inspire us to act to protect them.