The Good of the Hive Gallery

Colony Expanse Bees (2018)
Acrylic, wood, metal, thread
Matthew Willey

Colony Expanse:
an installation by artist Matthew willey For
the good of the hive

From May 18, 2018 – August 15, 2018 one hundred ninety-three hand-painted honey bees were displayed in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City as a collaboration between artist Matthew Willey, the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN), New York City Parks’ Art in the Parks and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. In September 2018 they ‘swarmed’ to Smithsonian’s National Zoo and remained there on display until November 15, 2018.

These one hundred ninety-three bees are a part of Matthew Willey’s growing mission toward hand-painting 50,000 individual honey bees in murals and installations around the world. These bees represent the number of member states of the United Nations as well as the need for full unity around the issue of bee and pollinator health. Each hand-painted bee was placed in nature with a minimal amount of protection. They have been through storms, extreme heat and humidity, extreme sun, snow and freezing cold. They essentially have lived through a season just as the bees do each year.
The artist believes that issues of planetary health such as pollination and food systems cannot be divided by socially constructed lines in the sand. Climate is not a national issue, it is a global one, just like the pollinators. He believes the bees are inviting humanity to see the world differently. They are offering an opportunity to experience the beauty in repairing a world that continues to be damaged by human activity.

Each painting has reacted differently to being exposed to the elements. (Insert number of As) of the 193 paintings remained unchanged by exposure. (Insert number of Bs) visibly reacted to the environment. (Insert number of Cs) of the paintings were more visibly reactive to the elements because of placement or direction facing the sun and wind. (Insert number of Ds) were dramatically altered by the exposure to the elements. Each bee tells a unique and individual story of the beauty in vulnerability, exposure, resilience, survival, perseverance, healing and change. Look closely and you will see worlds of difference between these paintings, keeping in mind that the artist hand painted each bee, so the image varies slightly from bee to bee.

After being in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for the summer, the installation traveled to Smithsonian’s National Zoo from September 15, 2018 – November 15, 2018. Each painting has been exposed to the elements for a full ‘bee’ season and, much like bees in nature, each piece has reacted differently to this exposure. These artworks have been subtly ‘mended’ by the artist in the areas they have decomposed beyond the integrity of the board, exemplifying the need for human intervention in areas that we have created imbalance and put undue stress on the natural world. Each bee tells a unique and individual story of the beauty in vulnerability, resilience, survival, perseverance, healing and change.

Available Pieces


Visible Change


Significant Change



The Artist


Art activist Matthew Willey is painting 50,000 individual honey bees – the number in a healthy, thriving hive -in murals and art installations around the world. Willey founded The Good of the Hive initiative in 2015 to raise awareness about the importance of honey bees and in the process inadvertently started igniting widespread passion for the natural world.

Twenty-one buzzing hives of awareness with over 5000 individually painted bees have been created to date. Willey has painted and exhibited bees at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in NYC and Burt’s Bees Global Headquarters in Durham, NC. He has collaborated with the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN), NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks Public Art Program and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. He has spoken at the UN, the Smithsonian Institution, the FAO in Washington DC, Burt’s Bees, the Embassies of France and Germany, Duke University and Georgetown University to name a few. His work has been featured throughout various media platforms including the NEA’s podcast, the Huffington Post, Veranda Magazine, Interior Design Magazine, the Washington Post and the New York Times.