New installation at the MFA brings fables to life with 5,000 insects

Photo outside Museum of Fine Arts

From the page to the exhibit halls, the Museum of Fine Arts immersive new installation brings one of Aesop’s most known fables to staggering life. Renowned artist Jennifer Angus has worked for more than a year to realize “The Grasshopper and the Ant, and Other Stories.” Her meticulous attention to detail is evident in each gallery at the MFA.

Mason Jars filled with bugs
The Ant’s Pantry by Jennifer Angus || Footage by Andrew Harlan

By the way, this isn’t a traveling exhibit. “The Grasshopper and The Ant, and Other Stories” will be on view exclusively at The MFA from October 12 through January 5. Once it’s done, it’s done. So don’t miss out!

It all begins in the Ant’s Pantry. Hundreds of jars of preserves (yes, those are real preserves made by Angus) are filled with broken insects. It’s a dark tunnel lit by the sugary, near amber-colored jars.

Town of dollhouses in a museum
The Grasshopper and the Ant, and other Stories, by Jennifer Angus || Footage by Andrew Harlan

Through the pantry visitors are shrunk down to the size of an ant. Homes set several feet above ground form a city set against a cuckoo clock, which can symbolize the doomsday clock. Angus is using the lessons from the fables to reflect the issues plaguing our world today.

On the back wall in the main room the words “THOUGHTS” and “PRAYERS” are spelled out with bugs, protruding from the mouth of a skeleton.

Deer heads mounted on a pink wall
The Dinner Party || Video by Andrew Harlan

It took nearly 5,000 insects to complete the entire installation. Almost all are left in their natural colors. While some viewers may fear or find insects disturbing, the installation offers even the most fretful visitors the chance to appreciate the “little workers” who are part of nature’s art.

We’re all invited to the dinner party. Taxidermic animals (an otter, a deer, bobcats, and more) sit around a table nibbling on food in the shape of rats. The table itself, set inside a brilliant pink room, is surrounded by mounted rhino, buffalo, and deer heads. Don’t worry, the heads aren’t real animals. Each is framed by a mosaic of different insects.

A reading room with yellow furniture
The Reading Room || Video by Andrew Harlan

On the far wall in the room the opening lines of William Roscoe’s poem “The Butterfly’s Ball, and The Grasshopper’s Feast” are spelled out in insects inside of 9 different frames. It’s the perfect prelude to the reading room. Several cozy couches and a chic rug invite guests to sit down and read and a fable or two as they attempt to digest all that is pouring from Jennifer Angus’s imagination.

Drawer filled with bugs
The Cabinet of Curiosities || Video by Andrew Harlan

The final room, The Cabinet of Curiosities, holds the 7 Deadly Sins. Once again, small dead things are reanimated behind glass. The intricacies of the layout and patterning are stunning, and it’s almost too much to put into words.

Deer skull with some hide still on it
The Cabinet of Curiosities || Video by Andrew Harlan

To get a full grasp of what’s going on at the exhibit we encourage you attend the opening on Saturday October 12. Jennifer Angus will hold a process talk from 2-3:30pm that day.

On November 15, the MFA will host an entirely unique culinary event, BugsGiving. That’s right, a full protein-packed meal of bugs. Tickets for the gourmet edible insect experience with plated dishes and cocktails created by Chef Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs are available now and can be purchased online.

Poem written in bugs on a wall
The Butterfly’s Ball, and The Grasshopper’s Feast || Video by Andrew Harlan

Follow the Museum of Fine Arts on its website, Facebook, and Instagram for updates on new events and exhibits.


Written by Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan is the Editor of Follow him on Twitter @harlanyoungII and Instagram @harlanyoung. Send tips and potential stories to