As I suspected it would be, a darned sight better than the Museum of London’s effort with Doctors, Dissections…
From the collection of one man, Richard Harris, this exhibition was an eclectic mix on the theme of death, from Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ figures to 17th century Flemish memento mori, to a few contemporary works of art. In fact, my only caveat was there there could have been many more contemporary pieces – but perhaps that is not one of Harris’ main fields of interest.
The exhibition is broken down into five ‘rooms’ (more segregated areas, really): Contemplating Death; The Dance of Death; Violent Death; Eros and Thanatos; Commemoration. The accompanying booklet (free!), nicely presented each section, including an introduction which was a brief presentation on the link between art and death. I felt the booklet contained enough information to provide an aide memoir without overwhelming with detail. Equally, the wall text was informative and knowledgeable without being obtrusive – and offered enough to pique the interest of curious souls to investigate further online.
It would be interesting to compare the cost of this exhibition to the one at Museum of London: The Wellcome Trust is not short of a shilling, but, certainly, less money, time and attention seem to have been squandered in chasing the lowest common denominator that at its showier cousin. Consequently, Death; A Self-Portrait has a depth and a gravitas – and, indeed a more compassionate and human response – to one of the few experiences we all must ultimately share.