An illustration of a golden orb-weaver spider.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Established in 1986 by the late dealer Oliver Hoare and run today by his son Damian Hoare and Ann Corne, the gallery’s latest show is no different, championing rare and curious objects connected to the natural world.

The Natural World runs until October 22 at London gallery space Cromwell Place in South Kensington with around 40 objects on show, from Chinese root sculptures and scholar’s rocks to ancient stone carvings, meteorites and imperial relics.

Rare is certainly the term used to describe the leading highlights: three textiles produced using silk extracted from more than two million golden orb-weaver spiders in Madagascar.

The trio – two shawls, priced at $250,000 each and a lamba (on loan) – represent the culmination of nearly 20 years of work by textile designer Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley.


A sheer taffeta weave shawl, one of two for sale at Oliver Hoare’s exhibition 'The Natural World' priced at $250,000 each.

“Over several hundred years you’ll find strange people who have tried to do this and every time it has been found to be mad”, Peers told The Guardian.

The pair headed a team of 80 men and women trained and employed to scour the highlands of Madagascar for spiders. For eight years they were collected in the morning and harnessed in groups of 24, each placed in an individual compartment with equipment that could thread their silk on to cones. (The spiders were returned unharmed at the end of the day.)

Only one other textile made from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders exists in the world – a cape by Peers and Godley exhibited at the V&A in 2012 and described by David Attenborough as “one of the rarest and most glamorous of fabrics”.