Black Panther Got Loose from the Bronx Zoo

Based on an article published in The New York Times in 1902, this tapestry depicts a historical episode: A black panther escaped from the Bronx zoo, evaded a police pursuit, dove into the Bronx River, and swam to his freedom. The project is inspired by the tradition of European tapestry making, which often depicted triumphal hunting scenes.

Black Panther Got Loose from the Bronx Zoo, installation view, Meislin Projects, 2017

Hunting scenes are among the most ancient themes in art history, they go back as far as cave paintings. It carries a message of human dominance over nature and is rooted in fear of the unpredictable, irrational, and wild, all of the sudden lashes out and need to be controlled. In modern times, it might resemble Hollywood movies like Godzilla, Jurassic Park, or Kong King. 

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Black Panther Got Loose From the Bronx Zoo, 8 x 8', Hand-woven tapestry (Gobelin), Wool and cotton, 2017​

Black Panther Got Loose from the Bronx Zoo is specifically inspired by the celebrated series of European tapestries The Hunt of the Unicorn, from the 15th Century; A medieval allegory that has several potential meanings which scholars still debate. Michaeli’s tapestry portrays a modern-day hunting scene of a black hero, ​which, in the contemporary era, resonates in new ways and with new meanings.

Details from Black Panther Got Loose From the Bronx Zoo

The article details how the Panther managed to sneak out of the cage. It recounts how a police squad tried to hunt it down, and how it scared park visitors and ate their lunch from picnic baskets.