Opening today is Death: A Self-portrait at the Wellcome Collection, showing the extraordinary collection of Richard Harris. See our photos from the preview here. Over the period of just 12 years, Mr. Harris – former antique print dealer from Chicago – has assembled almost 2000 objects related to the theme of death, 300 of which are on display at Wellcome. The character of the objects ranges from art masterpieces, through ethnographic material, anonymous photographs, postcards and curiosities to medical illustrations and scientific specimen including works from Mexico, Tibet, India and Japan. And naturally, if you love skulls such as we do, you’re in for quite a treat!
Impressive in its scale and in its diversity, the overall feeling of the show is however very personal and contemplative. Richard Harris has chosen every item in the collection himself, based on his personal taste and what the object symbolized and communicated to him. In his own words: “As I get older the thoughts 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.”
Curated by Kate Forde, the show is thematically divided into five sections: Contemplating Death with a series of artworks around the thought of “memento mori” – remember you will die;
The Dance of Death focusing on the universal certainty and the indiscriminate nature of death as well as the humorous perspective on life’s absurdity;
Violent Death with amongst others Goya’s masterpiece The Disasters of War, displaying the brutality of death on an industrial scale;
Eros and Thanatos depicting human fascination with morbid and disturbing phenomena, with in its middle a dramatic sculpture by John Isaac (a replica of the artist’s own body in the style of a wax anatomical model), acting as the centerpiece of possibly of the entire exhibition; and
Commemoration expressing the universal desire to connect with our loved ones beyond death.
Death: A Self-portrait, The Richard Harris Collection runs from 15 november 2012 to 24 February 2013.