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Petri Dishes

August 26, 2015

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WE’VE LEARNED in recent months how many millions of bacteria live happily inside our gut. Now we can invite some of them to our dinner table.


“Tepid Tip-Splitters,” the 14-inch charger plate from Bernardaud.

Right. The idea comes from artist Vik Muniz. He’s the Brazilian famous for having worked with garbage-pickers in Rio de Janeiro to “paint” their portraits using some of the recyclable materials they sift through on a daily basis. This time he collaborated with Tal Danino, a biological engineer and postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Danino’s work is in channeling bacteria to attack cancer cells. Together, the artist and the scientist created “Colonies,” a series of “paintings” made from bacteria.


The six-plate “Petri” set from Bernardaud, by Vik Muniz and Tal Danino.

Culturing bacteria on petri dishes can launch cosmos-like patterns. So while the scientist kept referring to petri dishes, the artist said, Why not make real dishes? Cancer-fighting remains the goal, of course, but a near-term result is “Petri,” limited-edition porcelain dinnerware re-created from the real petri dishes by the French manufacturer Bernardaud, known for its collaborations with artists. Six dinner-size plates are $550; a 14-inch charger is $600.

We were introduced to the colorful dishes at Consider It Done in Bethesda. And when your dinner guest admires the pattern under his chicken piccata, you get to say, “Oh, yes, that’s Salmonella.”

–Nancy McKeon

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