I collect images of "Death" because I am a visual person who takes in information best visually. As I have gotten older the thought of my own demise has begun to enter my conscious thoughts. The universality of "Death," with the realization that we will all die, encouraged me to begin the conversation of my mortality visually rather than talking or reading about it. I believe that there is a larger audience who might also be more comfortable beginning that discussion in a visual way, which is why I always thought of my collection in terms of a public exhibition.
--Richard Harris, the collector whose works are featured in "Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection,"in an interview with Morbid AnatomyWhilst in Chicago a few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be able to spend a good two hours or so with the works in the profoundly wonderful new exhibition "Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection," on view through July 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center. This seriously (!!!) not-to-be-missed exhibition showcases nearly 1,000 works which range from 2000 B.C.E. to the present, from fine art to ephemera, and from Mexican to Japanese to Tibetan to European artist traditions, all drawn from the astounding death-related collection of Richard Harris.
Some of my favorite pieces--featured in the photos above--included Rudolfo Villena Hernandez "A Commemoration of the Bicentennial Proclamation of the Independence of Mexico" (third from bottom); Michel de Spiegelaere's "Macabre Scene," one of the better Frederik Ruysch tableaux recreations I have had the pleasure to see (8-10 from top); a collection of macabre book plates and postcards (4th and 5th from bottom); Roger Reutimann's "Death of Venus" (seventh down), a wonderful collection of 19th Century ceramic German Dance of Death Figures (second from bottom), a carved wooden memento mori figurine from the early 17th century (third from bottom), and Jodie Carie's "In the eyes of Others plaster-cast bone chandelier bringing to mind the wonders of the Kutná Hora ossuary (fourth down). The installation itself--expertly staged by curator Lucas Cowan--is wonderful as well, evoking the beautiful clutter of the wunderkammer but utilizing clever groupings which draw the eye and invite close investigation rather than overwhelm.
You can see more photos from the exhibition--and find out more about the works seen above--by clicking here. You can find out more on this exhibition on this recent post, on the Chicago Cultural Center website, and on Richard Harris' website. You can watch a gallery walk through and interview with Richard Harris by clicking here.