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RAVISHING BEASTS: THE STRANGELY ALLURING WORLD OF TAXIDERMY

MUSEUM OF VANCOUVER
October 21st, 2009 - February 28th, 2010
Curator: RACHEL POLIQUIN
Exhibition Designer: KEVIN McALLISTER

INTRO | PRESS | EXHIBITION IMAGES | CATALOGUE

Displaying over a hundred animals from the Museum of Vancouver’s collection of taxidermy for the first time in decades, the exhibit Ravishing Beasts: The Strangely Alluring World of Taxidemy investigates the provocative and strangely alluring world of taxidermy.  Whether a hoarding of exotic curiosities, a scientific archive, a hunting trophy, or a stuffed pet, taxidermy always exposes longings to capture animals and tell stories about their significance within human lives.

 


With a few additions, the animals in Ravishing Beasts are from the Museum of Vancouver’s own natural history collection.  Almost no information is known about them except that they were donated by Vancouver residents.  Most were on public display until the Museum moved from the top floor of the Carnegie Library at Main and Hastings to its current location in 1968.  In part due to space constraints, in part due to a diminishing appreciation for taxidermy, the animals were put into storage and have lingered under plastic for the last half century.  

This weird lurking in the basement dovetailed with my larger project to examine the perception of taxidermy as an outmoded, outdated, unwanted even, way of understanding nature. The fact that the majority of the Museum’s taxidermy has not been on public display for half a century provides a fascinating opportunity to question taxidermy's the legacy, current value, and future relevance both within and beyond museum culture. 

 

Taxidermy allows viewers to get closer to animals than they ever could in life or on television.  The exhibition draws on this visual and visceral intimacy and invites visitors to examine taxidermy’s scientific history, its ethics and aesthetics, its contemporary revival in art and design, and its use as an educational tool.

The exhibit includes a small display of contemporary artists who use taxidermy in the art. On display is are pieces by the Dutch duo known as Idiots, French artist Pascal Bernier, Vancouver artist George Vergette, and a video by John Bland of Iris Schieferstein's work that combines animal parts to create hybrid creatures. Also on display is a video from the Field Museum of Natural History from the 1950s documenting the making of a habitat diorama, a film by Michael Mills documenting the museum's conservationists cleaning and repairing all the animals for display, and an installation by Shirley Wiebe highlighting the beauty of fluid preserved specimens.

Please click the links above for images of the exhibition and media coverage or to purchase a catalogue.