LONDON (GN) Aside from being one of the world’s greatest composers of experimental music, John Cage was a man obsessed with mushrooms who supplied New York restaurants with foraged fungi.

Before creating Peter Rabbit, Mrs Puddle-Duck and Timmy Tiptoes, Beatrix Potter’s big passion was looking through microscopes to investigate the germination process of fungal spores and painting mushrooms as accurately as possible.

Today, according to the curator of a new art exhibition, artists are more interested in fungi than ever before.

Francesca Gavin has gathered together works by 35 artists, designers and musicians to explore the world of mushrooms for a show opening in January at Somerset House in London. She was drawn to the subject because she kept spotting mushrooms in art and wanted to know more.

“I just noticed mushrooms popping up everywhere,” she said. “I just kept seeing them in art over the past 50 years, but even more in the past three years. I then kind of fell into a mushroom wormhole … there is so much enthusiasm for mushrooms and so much innovation.

“Everyone loves a mushroom, it makes people happy. There is something light-hearted to it and perhaps it’s an antidote to a lot of the conceptualism of contemporary art.”

Gavin has unearthed some fascinating stories for the exhibition. For example, Cage’s lifelong interest in mushrooms, which led him to reviving the New York Mycological Society in the 1950s.

To make some extra money he also supplied hotels including the Four Seasons with mushrooms he foraged in upstate New York.

“He’s actually better known in Italy for his love of mushrooms than he is for his music, which I think is amazing,” said Gavin.

For Cage, it was as much about the foraging as it was the mushroom.

“If you think about the peacefulness and space in his work, I think that was very much connected with his love of foraging,” she said.