The ten most unusual stories from museums and galleries in 2013

By Ben Miller | 16 December 2013

This year has been full of bizarre stories on Culture24, here's ten of the best from 2013...

Bompas and Parr’s Tutti Frutti boating lake at Kew

A photo of a woman in an orange life jacket and colourful trousers rowing a wooden boat
Fruity boating at Kew© Ann Charlott Ommedal
Everyone’s favourite fans of foodie frivolity returned with perhaps the most bizarre interactive installation of the year, arching Kew’s skyline with a giant pineapple and inviting visitors to row into a banana grotto. The escapade honoured edible fruit.

Silicon-filled Neanderthals and homo sapiens at the Natural History Museum

A close-up photo of a homo sapien early man with a huge beard and very dark features
Early man at the Natural History Museum© Natural History Museum
Under the cover of darkness, two intense inhabitants of next year’s Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story show moved in. This powerful pair, based on DNA samples and a skeleton found in a Belgium cave, will be seeing you in 2014.

Fifteen containers of 103-year-old carrots, peas, asparagus and cherries arrive at the Beamish

A black and white photo of the front of a fruiterer and florist in the early 20th century
Reeks remembered in Durham© Courtesy Beamish Museum
Darlington deli-man Fred Reeks won multiple awards for his fruit and vegetables during the early 20th century. “To think those peas are more than 100 years old and still have their colour,” said Hilary Hopkins, Reeks’ granddaughter, donating these sugar-preserved relics to the Beamish.

Richard III’s body was infected with roundworms

A photo of a skeleton in an archaeological pit
Parasites pervaded Richard III's pelvis© University of Leicester
A distinctly less palatable side of the Richard III story: taking samples from his pelvis, archaeologists reckoned the parasite eggs would have hatched into larvae, passed through the king's tissues and matured in his lungs before crawling up his airways to be re-swallowed. Once back in their unwitting carrier's intestines, they would then grow into adult worms of up to a foot in length.

Gardener makes a giant courgette version of HMS Alliance

A photo of a man in a shirt and tie holding a giant courgette in front of a submarine
We all live in a veggie submarine© Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, Hampshire
Eric Rayment is part of the team ably assisting the £7 million conservation project on Gosport’s mighty HMS Alliance. His own project was just as ambitious: working with materials found under his courgette foliage, he installed a vegetable version of the submarine right next to it. “I couldn’t help but think it looked like a nuclear submarine,” he reasoned.

Eco-artist to spend a year in a giant egg

A photo of a man sitting in a circular studio made out of timber with writing materials
The Exbury Egg© Nigel Rigden
“The Exbury Egg is a necessary intervention in the landscape,” said Stephen Taylor, perched near a hammock in his temporary, energy-efficient home from September. Taylor’s findings from his River Beaulieu residency will be used by oceanography researchers at the University of Southampton.

Gilbert and George issue Ten Commandments

A photo of two men in graduation gowns standing in front of students outdoors
Life coaching with Gilbert and George© Alan Stewart
Stellar advice from the provocative art pairing here. Sex, soul, love and artificial art were all advocated to students at Plymouth University, where the duo were given Honorary Doctorates in Art.

John Travolta visits Leighton Buzzard Railway

A photo of a group of people standing in front of a heritage railway track
Look Who's Talking to Leighton Buzzard Railway organisers© Courtesy Leighton Buzzard Railway
A leafy heritage railway might seem an unlikely setting for a man associated with greased lightning. But having apparently seen a leaflet in his hotel, Travolta escorted his son on a 70-minute round trip before a low-key photoshoot. “They were satisfied with what they saw,” organiser Mervyn Leah reported of the star’s minders.

Call for Ai Weiwei remainders results in 10-pound seed bag donation

A photo of a large sack of sunflower seeds with a pair of hands reaching into them
Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds© Bexley Heritage Trust
Having toured internationally, it stood to reason that some of artist Ai Weiwei’s signature seeds might have been pocketed by passing fans. But when a New York enthusiast sent a mass of them to a Bexley exhibition, it eclipsed the previous record of returns – 13 – by a mind-boggling margin.

Thomas Knights goes red-hot ginger

A close-up photo of a pair of a ginger man with green eyes staring into the camera
One of Thomas Knights' alpha males© Thomas Knights
From Christina Hendricks to Prince Harry, redheads need take no nonsense anymore. Artist Thomas Knights – who grew up ashamed of his auburn barnet – seized on this in a sexy show presenting ginger sitters as the ultimate alpha males.

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