Royal Birds by Lynn Hatzius. All images courtesy of Viktor Wynd Fine Art Inc.
There is no way to really describe what goes on at The Last Tuesday Society, it simply has to be seen. In a word: it is spectacular. It beggars belief. You end up just LOOKING, overwhelmed by all this weird and wonderful stuff, no idea why you like it – only that you do.
I actually went to The Last Tuesday Society to see ‘Beasts Royal’, the art exhibition running until 8th January at the adjacent Victor Wynd Fine Art gallery – and I’ll get to that in a minute. But this place … ! When later that night I told a friend how amazing it was, she just looked horrified – because there’s a lot of taxidermy. Dead, stuffed animals feature heavily. But this is why this place needs to be seen, because there is something incredible and spell-binding about it. I don’t know, maybe I’m the odd one for not finding the silent, staring animals horrifying. After all, I was raised by people who thought nothing of letting their five-year-old help scraping meat off the elk bones after the annual hunt. (‘That’s right darling, toss it in the mince bucket.’)
Bowerbird by Natasha Chambers
So what IS all this wonderful stuff then? Well, there are butterflies. And lots of prints and pictures. Animal skeletons, and some old human skulls which look real. It’s a little bit like the Sir John Soane’s museum in Holborn, but it’s more random than that. There is a pack of playing cards with naked transsexuals, a golliwog orchestra, rusty keys, seashells, toys and two-headed cuddly bears. There are books too: ‘Dial “O” for Orgy’, ‘The Virgin Soldiers’ and something called ‘The Cunt Colouring Book’. I reached out for the latter to see if it’s what it sounded like … oh my. Ladies, you might need a hand mirror to get the shading right.
The Fool by EC Woodard
Back upstairs in the gallery, the taxidermy theme runs strongly through the ‘Beasts Royal’ exhibition too. This isn’t usually the case, says ‘majordomo’ Patrick Knill, as the show changes several times a year. The art, mostly one-off pieces curated by Alice Herrick, is themed around animals and nature. The works are shown in the midst of a jungle of animals – there’s a parrot, a fox, some sort of small camel, a lion, a spotted creature I think may be a hyena, and a full-sized polar bear raised on two legs. There are some amazing little cabinets on display too, including a dressed-up frog reading Dickens, and a priceless setting of eight squirrels playing cards.
Fox Doorknocker by Jen Franklin
‘What you see in the gallery, we exhibit the things we do because we like it,’ says Knill. ‘We’re not a gallery for hire. We will put on artists that we like.’ While it’s not the case at the moment, the idea is for the gallery to look different from the rest of the space. This would have been the case with previous exhibitions, such as the one with photographer Lina Scheynius.
So what do people say when they come into the shop, I ask. ‘Well, sometimes people stay for 15 seconds and then they leave again,’ laughs Patrick. ‘Some people have a fear of certain animals, so if you are scared of butterflies you won’t last long.’ He points out that most of the taxidermy is antique, and in cases where it isn’t, the animals were culled for reasons such as pest-control.
By Andy Harper
The shop and gallery on Mare Street, randomly located between a closed-down pub and a loan shop in spitting distance of the strip joints on Hackney Road, are actually the latest additions to the many activities of The Last Tuesday Society. The group is probably better known for its club nights and hosted lectures, but by this point I’m too overwhelmed to remember to ask Patrick about this. Instead I crouch down to look at all the strange and wonderful things for sale in this ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. An exorcism doll believed to contain souls from previous sessions, mechanical wind-up toys, an elegant box of yes, you read right, these are ‘chocolate anuses modelled from life’. There’s lots of jewellery – ice cream cones, claws, spiders, and … are those teeth?! I lean further into the cabinet, digging for treasure. All the while I’m being watched by a giant bat, a dog with wings, and all the great beasts of the savanna.
By Lynn Hatzius
Andy Harper, EC Woodard, hackney, Jen Franklin, Lina Scheynius, london, Lynn Hatzius, Natasha Chambers, Patrick Knill, Sir John Soane’s museum, Taxidermy, The Last Tuesday Society, Victor Wynd Fine Art Inc
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