Archive for Taxidermy

A Merman, The British Museum

Posted in History, London, Museum, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Whenever I visit the British Museum, my first stop is always the Enlightenment Gallery. This long, high-ceilinged room is lined with old-fashioned wooden display cases containing some of the objects that formed the original collection of the Museum, many of them donated by its founder Hans Sloane in the mid-18th Century. Although it is now known as a vast repository for historical objects, when it was first created the British Museum also included all sorts of wonders and curiosities, including natural specimens, books and manuscripts.

The Enlightenment Gallery, The British Museum

The Enlightenment Gallery, The British Museum

With its diverse selection of weird and wonderful exhibits, the Enlightenment Gallery is reminiscent of the Cabinets of Curiosity which were so popular in Europe during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Not surprisingly, amongst the coins, ancient sculptures, Greek pots and other treasures can be found a number of distinctly magical objects. My favourite is the tiny Merman, who skulks in the shadows of one of the lower cabinets near the middle of the room.

The Merman, The British Museum

The Merman, The British Museum

With its withered face, shocked expression and spiky teeth, the Merman is a scary little thing. Apparently the original owners claimed that it had been captured in the sea near Japan. Those cynical curators at the British Museum think that it might not be authentic, and is in fact the top half of a monkey stitched on to a fish tail. But I am not so sure.

What do you think?

Animal Misfit, Thomas Grünfeld

Posted in Art, Margate, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Back to Margate again this week, this time to an exhibition at the fabulous new Turner Contemporary Gallery. This smart, airy art space is currently home to a show entitled Curiosity, which brings together a group of diverse objects inspired by the idea of a 17th Century Wunderkammer. There’s all sorts in there; natural, scientific, artistic, eccentric, much of it distinctly magical. I was fascinated to see Dr John Dee’s crystal and scrying mirror, and enchanted by the delicate glass models of weird and wonderful sea creatures created in the 19th Century by Rudolph and Leopold Blaschka.

But my absolute favourites were two works by German artist Thomas Grünfeld, whose speciality is creating bizarre chimeras from taxidermy animals. This one, which joins the top half of a peacock with the bottom half of a penguin, features in Curiosity.

Misfit (penguin/peacock),Thomas Grunfeld, 2005 © DACS 2013

Misfit (penguin/peacock),Thomas Grunfeld, 2005 © DACS 2013

I am not sure what you would call this strange creature. A peaguin perhaps? Or a pencock? Another example in the show melds the body of a collie dog with the face of a sheep. Strange and unsettling, yet familiar and funny, these sculptures were the highlights of an intriguing exhibition. It’s an experience that will expand your knowledge, but entertain you in the process. Fascinating stuff, and not to be missed!

http://www.turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/curiosity-art-and-the-pleasures-of-knowing