The weird and wonderful world of Walter Potter

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In addition to preserving and posing each creature he used, Potter also painstakingly crafted each little implement and prop from old wooden cigar boxes, and placed them against painted back drops often reminiscent of the local area.

Although originally made for his own amusement, his macabre scenes quickly grew in popularity and he was encouraged to open his own museum in 1861, in the summer-house of the pub his family owned. His collection of anthropomorphic taxidermy grew over the years, supplemented by examples of physically deformed animals that he collected from local farmers.

Eventually his curious menagerie expanded into a full museum known as “Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities”, a must-see attraction which turned the village of Bramber into a thriving tourist destination for many years. When Walter Potter died in 1918 the museum supposedly contained 10,000 specimens, but the fashion for such morbid curiosities had already begun to wane. Remarkably, however, the museum didn’t close until the 1970s, when it was sold by his heirs and moved to various locations in Britain until it ended up at the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. There it stayed until 2003, when the contents were auctioned off to individual collectors around the world, sadly separating the strange collection for good. Damien Hirst, himself a dabbler in the dark arts of taxidermy, notoriously offered £1 million to keep Potter’s collection together at the time, but his bid was apparently rejected by the auction house.

Despite the scattering of his collection, interest in Walter Potter and his remarkable anthropomorphic dioramas has certainly not faded. The internet has helped govern a revival in interest in curious collections and sensibilities by exposing new audiences to these sorts of obscure artifacts and hidden histories. The internet also enables individuals to view many of Potter’s creations in one place, helping it to retain some semblance of a cohesive collection. Most recently, a significant number of Potter’s works were even reunited from private collections in an exhibition curated by Sir Peter Blake at the Museum of Everything in London in 2010.

Pat Morris, a scholar on the history of taxidermy, has observed that Potter’s taxidermy has now become an internationally famous icon of Victorian whimsy. This, I think, is a key reason why Potter’s collections have inspired such a renewed sense of curiosity in recent years. Although his created world where kittens play croquet and squirrels drink port is indeed a bizarre sight, to contemporary eyes the truly curious thing about it is that this was once an acceptable form of museum display, a respectable pastime, and a delightful tourist destination. In an age of the slick, white-walled, politically-correct, ethically-meticulous, compulsively-edifying modern museum, it is the anachronistic sensibility of the bizarre dioramas that is so compelling to a contemporary audience.

Lee Bul

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Lee Bul: From Me, Belongs to You Only

New works made especially for this show
The exhibition subtitle, “From Me, Belongs to You Only,” is a message to society in general but it also demonstrates Lee’s stance of emphasizing the personal relations and emotions of individuals, which tend to be overrun by the waves of political and social change. The phrase is rich with the suggestion that we should always be conscious of the relationship between the whole and the individual. We can observe same attitude in a new work made especially for this show, which will be exhibited at the end of the exhibition.

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A dark little twist on the inner life of hunting trophies

With a name that smacks of an Old West movie, check out Brooke Weston’s strange twist on the inner world of trophy mounts. The Oregon-based artist works with recycled taxidermy and other found materials to create miniature dioramas in the heads hunting tropies.  On her website, she writes that she gathers inspiration from fairy tales, and you can tell.  For all the supposed sweetness of a cosy miniature abode, the little worlds have a darkly creepy aura.  Who lives here?

Check out Weston’s website here: http://artbybrookeweston.com/index.html

 

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Astonishing Animal Sculptures By Afke Golsteijn and Floris Bakker

The artistic partnership of Afke Golsteijn and Floris Bakker, who collectively are better known as Idiots, present us with a unique body of work, characterized by the use of animal material exquisitely sculpted into natural positions and combined seamlessly with rich materials such as embroidery and pearls.
A contemporary touch is given to the classical memento mori concept, questioning the world’s current trend in over glorification through marketing. In a constantly twisting play between fantasy and reality, Idiots tell us about important themes such as life, death, beauty and restriction.
The striking beauty and the vividness of the animals that figure in the works, conjure powerful emotions of awe and inspiration before giving way to our morbid curiosity surrounding death, which leads us ultimately to think of our own mortality. This contrast between beauty, luxury and greed coupled with the mystery of death, timelessly preserved, transports one into a transient state of mind, in which anything is possible.(via: idiots.nl)
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Roadkill Couture – A Collection That PETA Can Sign Off On

Suggestively entitled ”Roadkill Couture”, the collection imagined by artist/designer Jess Eaton, celebrates the beauty of fauna and its long-lasting love affair with the fashion industry, promising eternal life to elements which otherwise would g to waste. The dark, dramatic pieces, include cat fur, raven or swan feathers and seagull wings, all coming from animals that were accidentally killed or that have died from natural causes.

 

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Polly Morgan

A love of animals and a desire to preserve them led Polly to learn the skills of taxidermy, and she’s been creating eerily beautiful still lives everysince. Instead of placing her creations in their natural habitats Polly juxtaposes them with unusual and unexpected surroundings, playing with scale and perception to force viewers to see the animals as if for the first time.

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