Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Animal Furniture

In July 1896, The Strand magazine (where Arthur Conan Doyle first serialised his Sherlock Holmes stories) had an article entitled 'Animal Furniture' (black and white pictures, above), depicting imaginative ways to display ones shot trophy animals. Things have changed slightly since the good ol' Empire days when a man of means would go off to Africa, shoot a baby giraffe, then have it transformed into a chair in their Bloomsbury townhouse.

But they haven't changed that much. Fast forward over a hundred years, and a Renaissance in taxidermy and macabre animal furniture seems to be happening, except now the people doing it are calling themselves artists. Admittedly, the methods of acquiring the animal has changed but the result isn't dissimilar.

Alannah Currie from 80s band the Thompson Twins (named after the Tintin characters, by the way), has re-invented herself as an artist-upholsterer (image, top left). She stresses she's a vegetarian who only uses roadkill. Polly Morgan (top right), likewise points out her work uses only already-dead animals. I'm not sure these arguments entirely justify the result. What next? An armchair made from dead people? Darn, Ed Gein's already done it.

Earlier in the year, we went to Roche Court, a fine sculpture park outside Salisbury, to see an exhibition of Nina Saunders animal sculptures (bottom left). Housed in a white room, the various dead birds and animals attached (or inserted) to pieces of furniture made the place feel like a macabre morgue.


Anonymous said...

the robin smashing through the window is not a piece of furniture!

Barnaby said...

Well done for spotting the odd one out! It is, in fact, ART!