Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Death: A Self Portrait," The Wellcome Collection, Through February 24, 2013

In some way death in our culture happens offstage in private, but this show looks at the ways in which people have explored death much more face on. --Kate Forde, Curator of "Death: A Self Portrait," The Wellcome Collection, BBC Magazine
My last night in London, I had the honor and delight to attend the preview of "Death: A Self Portrait," the Wellcome Collection's spectacularly amazing new exhibition which officially opens today.

Beautifully and thought-provokingly curated by Kate Forde (who also curated the Wellcome's 2009 Exquisite Bodies), the exhibition uses as its base and its muse the extensive, broad, and rather profound death-themed collection of Chicago-based Richard Harris. Harris' collection is comprised of all things death, ranging from valuable artistic masterworks to the lowest-brow of popular culture, bringing to mind the collection of none other than Henry Wellcome, the man behind the Wellcome Collection. To its merit, "Death: A Self Portrait" draws deftly from both extremes as well as all that is located in between; the result is an exhibition that is at a lovely, provocative, fascinating, witty, and thoughtful investigation into the human obsession with imagining and coming to terms with that greatest and most unknown of absolutes: DEATH.

"Death: A Self Portrait" is divided up into five sections: The first, "Contemplating Death," is a collection of memento mori themed work; The second, "The Dance of Death," gathers works responding to notions of the danse macabre or death as the great equalizer; "Violent Death" features a variety of artistic responses to war, including Goya's Disasters of War series; "Commemoration" concerns itself with burial, morning, and our responses the particular dead; My personal favorite, "Eros and Thanatos," is an unusual addition to a public discussion of death, and showcases "works expressing our strange fascination with 'things at the outer limits of life and death, sexuality and pain."

Above are just a very few images from this wonderful exhibition; there are many, many more excellent artworks, objects and artifacts to be seen; I simply cannot more highly recommend checking out this jaw-dropper before its closing date on February 24th!

You can find out more about the show on the Wellcome Collection website by clicking here; To hear the lovely illustrated interview with curator Kate Forde from which the above quote was drawn, click here.

Also, for the interested among you: both collector-of-death Richard Harris and curator Kate Forde will be contributors to the Morbid Anatomy Anthology, a new lavish book immortalizing in words and images the best of Morbid Anatomy Presents; you can secure your own copy--and find out more--by clicking here. For more on the Richard Harris collection, click here to learn about a recent exhibition using his collection as its base at The Chicago Cultural Center.

All images ©  Wellcome Images, Courtesy The Richard Harris Collection; captions, top to bottom:
  1. Metamorphic Postcard, c.1900 
  2. Skeleton puppet. Wood and cotton
  3. Bathel Bruyn the elder, 'A Skull in a Niche', c.1535-55 Oil on panel
  4. When Shall we Meet Again?Gelatin silver print Size, c.1900
  5. Louis Crusius, Antikamnia, 1900 Paper: calendar series of 6, 1900
  6. Marcos Raya, Untitled (family portrait: woman in yellow dress), 2005 Collage: vintage photo with mixed media
  7. Dana Salvo, From the series 'The Day, the Night and the Dead': 'Home altar atop table commemorating ancestors', 1990-2004 Photograph
  8. Alfred Rethel, 'Death the Enemy', 1851 Wood engraving
  9. Memento Mori, unknown artist, late 18th-century Engraving
  10. Mors Ultima Linea Rerum (Death the Final Boundary of Things), c.1570 Engraving, 
  11. Ivo Saliger 'Der Artz (The Doctor), c.1921 Colour etching on brown paper
  12. Marcos Raya, Untitled (family portrait: grandma), 2005

1 comment:

Salamandra said...

A similar one from an anissette ad.