In Pictures: Death comes to the Wellcome Collection

By Culture24 Reporter | 15 November 2012
A photo of various ivory carved creatues curling around on top of each other
Japanese Ivory Okimono (circa 1880)© The Richard Harris Collection
From prints by Rembrandt, Dürer and Goya and intricate anatomical drawings to installations on Mexico’s kaleidoscopic Day of the Dead and a group of Incan skulls, Death is Richard Harris’ collection of 300 works from a collection which, as you might expect, is best described as unique.

A photo of an ancient moddled brown carved stone against a black background
Tibetan carved wooden mask (19th century). Wood sculpture and base© The Richard Harris Collection
The Chicago-based former antique print dealer’s macabre haul has been devised into five sections: Contemplating Death, The Dance of Death, Violent Death, Eros and Thanatos and Commemoration.

A greyscale photo of three theatrical performers on stage in death masks next to a dog
Linda Connor, Death Dancers, Hemis Monastery, Ladakh, Himalayas (1998)© Haines Gallery
Mortality, it seems, is a multi-faceted guest. There’s a spectacular chandelier made from 3,000 plaster-cast bones by the British artist Jodie Carey, and a contemporary sculpture by June Leaf showing a delicate skeleton balanced forlornly on a table.

An image of a black and white fairytale-style illustration of skeletons and crosses
Walter Sauer, Dance of Death (1925). Woodblock© The Richard Harris Collection
Goya’s The Disasters of War group of work presents death on “an industrial scale”. Warhol, van Utrecht, Mapplethorpe, engraver James Ensor, Callot and Dix are among the other artists represented.

A photo of a sculpture of a grey skeleton appearing to work on an operating table
June Leaf, Gentleman on Green Table (1999-2000). Metal: Tin and wire© Courtesy Edward Thorp Gallery / Jean Leaf
The rituals of death, burial and mourning are also revealed, including the connections we feel to people beyond death. Pre-Colombian Aztec vessels and Pacific Island tau taus are among the spiritual exhibits.

An image of a painting showing a man and wife in suits with skeleton faces and bones
Marcos Raya, Untitled (family portrait: wedding) (2005). Collage: vintage photo with mixed media© Marcos Raya
  • Death is at the Wellcome Collection until February 24 2013.
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