Yesterday brought the rain, my kitten being melodramatic, and an exhibition called Death being held at the Wellcome Collection until January 24th.
I didn’t really know what to expect as it was a last minute visit, a friend and I were looking for something to do and this came up on our radar. And I have to say, it was a great surprise. Though I still think it’s very odd to be a collector collecting around the theme of Death, the pieces on offer at this exhibition were far from odd. It is a well thought out and well curated collection, with various sculptures from Tibet, India and Mexico, alongside old wood cuts and prints from some of the greatest lithographers known in the history of art, you slowly forget the creepy aspect of the collection.
One could see this exhibition as slightly morbid, as well as a bit one-sided in the sense that all the works are based around the themes of skulls rather than the larger theme of Death, but since Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull had received so much press, it’s refreshing and wonderful to see the true history of such great art that has revolved around this theme for centuries.
My favourite section of the whole exhibition came right at the very end with 9 or 10 small, old photographs, randomly found by the collector, Richard Harris. All in black and white, each more odd than the next; a group of students putting a cigarette in a skull head and lighting it, a young teenage girl holding a skull head with a look of confusion with her family; these almost seem like posed caricatures of the morbid fascination with skulls and death.
I had never been to the Wellcome Collection, ashamed as I am to admit it, but in a way, I am glad that the exhibition Death was the reason to go for the first time. It’s a fantastic exhibition and really does cover so many aspects of art without losing the focus of the collectors fascination with skulls. For the first two rooms, I kept saying to my friend that I hope they have a Kathe Kollwitz piece, one of my all time favourite artists who herself had a very close link to death after losing her whole family, and lo-and-behold in the third room, there it was, a gorgeous little drawing of her typical mother and child subject matter.
Another brilliant thing about this exhibition is the different types of people that are visiting this exhibition; there were evidently art students and tourists there, as well as the older generation, but now also some goths and punks who I’m assuming were drawn in by the simple title Death! This for me is the true epitome of a successful exhibition- when you can interest people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, different passions and past times.
Seeing as this exhibition is on for a few more weeks, I really would urge you to go and see it. The design of the rooms is fantastic, the brochures are beautiful and if I had one negative comment, it would be that there were no postcards to buy, only the exhibition catalogue (which is also beautiful).