The Haunch of Venison is located just off New Bond Street. Here, it’s as if the legacy of Coco Chanel curled up into a tight ball and exploded into a postcode-wide tribute to overpriced consumerism. It’s where fur-swathed upper-class wives come to spend their husbands’ money and where tourists gaze open-mouthed at the luxurious designer window displays.
This is why it’s so surprising to find something as intelligent, brilliant and innovative as the Mythologies exhibition right in the middle of it.
The first floor is somewhat unimpressive, although some interesting pieces slip through. A block of wood sculpted by Keith Tyson is situated in the middle of the floor which, upon closer inspection, is spilling over with internal organs: unsettling.
A giant sign in the spotlight reads nothing but ‘Charles Darwin’ and at first it isn’t clear whether this is a work of art (it is, by Simon Patterson), or part of the explanatory texts and titles posted on the walls throughout. In fact, this particular uncertainty within modern art movements leads to scenes like two people solemnly and thoughtfully appreciating…a static video intermission between short films shown on a television in one of the rooms.
It is on the second floor where things get truly interesting. Coming up the stairs, there is a dog standing underneath one of the exhibits, a giant rat tail still hanging out of its mouth. Upon closer inspection, the dog, too, turns out to be an oeuvre rather than an example of London’s poor public hygiene standards. In fact, taxidermy appears to be the medium du jour – everything from dogs to birds, settled into surreal poses and standing motionless among the patrons who are quietly shuffling around them.
There are some amazingly beautiful paintings: dimly lit oil butterflies and dripping collages evoke imagery of death, beauty, hell and love. A single white egg floats silently under a spotlight and above and immaculate, symmetrical bird’s nest. A guy with more make-up than heyday Marilyn Manson peers eerily from one of the corners – probably not an installation (performance art? Commentary on the modern transcendence of sociocultural boundaries?), but who can know for sure.
Mythologies does not exactly deliver what it promises. The collection was intended as an exploration of religion, mythology, history and art in society. Although a lot can be read and interpreted into the various works on display, they do not clearly focus on a unanimous theme. They were not created to focus on any such theme, merely collected for the purpose. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful, unique and challenging collection of art, and probably the most exciting thing to hit London for months. A must-see for any philosopher, appreciator, thinker or pseudo-intellectual.
Haunch of Venison
6 Burlington Gardens