MEMENTO MORI:  Alive and Well in SoHo

“Our graveyards have been planted next to that women, children and lesser folk should grow accustomed to seeing a dead man without feeling terror, and so that this continual spectacle of bones, tombs and funerals should remind us of our human conditions.”

Michel de Montaigne

Pertwee Anderson and Gold, and The Museum of Curiosity have collaborated on an exhibition that explores objects of memento mori. An astonishing variety of artists boldly ask viewers to contemplate their mortality through their work. I went along to have a look. I stepped into an intimate SoHo gallery where I left the bright glare of day and was at once enveloped in the tomb-like dark grey walls. Pointed, effective lighting enhanced the works of art. I’ve selected a few that were particularly striking, though any one item in the collection is more than worthy of a visit.

The following were created by Jim Skull. (I know!) Jim Skull is influenced and inspired by the “strong cultural heritages of Africa, New Zealand, Asia and Oceania”.

Papier mache skull, antique beads, murano black glass

Papier mache skull, antique cannetille

Papier mache skull, artificial flowers, taxidermy bird and insects, gold leaf

Papier mache skull, artificial flowers, taxidermy bird and insects, gold leaf

All of the above images Copyright Jim Skull, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

Franklyn and Brendan Connor are twins and artists who grew up in an extreme Christian cult known as ‘The Family’, the same cult that included the actors River and Joaquin Phoenix. When Franklyn and Brendan were sixteen they ran away. As they learned about the outside world they communicated with each other about what they discovered with notebooks and sketchpads, which resulted in their special form of making art together.

Death Calls

Acrylic on canvas

Image Copyright The Conner Brothers, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

This piece by Tasha Marks in collaboration with David Bradley and Annabel de Vetten is one of my favourites. It drew me in quite innocently and then I discovered…it’s edible.

Edible Vanitas Case

Mixed media including chocolate, sugar, marshmallows, apples, pears and ambergris

Image Copyright Tasha Marks, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

Nancy Fouts’s work has been seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, among many others, and has been endorsed by Banksy. In her words, "I hoard stuff in boxes and then I lay it all out and many ideas happen like that." Ms. Fouts is originally from, ahem, Kentucky.

Hang on
Medical skeleton, resin, rope and paint

Freedom is Overrated 
Taxidermy bird, perspex, dome, black wood and glass display case

Images Copyright Nancy Fouts, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

“The decision to erase paintings painted by other artists came partly from graffiti,” says artist Paul Stephenson. “The paintings I use, my surface, have already existed fully as objects.” When asked by Garage Magazine to what he is particularly drawn:  “Paintings that have a recognisable, iconic format and a clear subject. That is why I have worked a lot with 17th - 19th century portraiture as it has this iconic quality. We know the framework of these portraits so well that even when the central subject is erased we know what should be there and we begin to imagine it.”


No lady,
       Oil off canvas

Image Copyright Paul Stephenson, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

Prepare yourself now for another sibling duo, Jake and Dinos Chapman, whose work is sometimes described as the anatomical and pornographic grotesque. 


Cast human skull, resin and oil paint

Side View

Image Copyright Jake and Dinos Chapman, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

To end, a gentler image by Michal Ohana-Cole whose “art practice instigates the complex everlasting relationship between money, death and sexuality as well as the notion that one inevitably controls the other.”


Godspeed you (No.13), 2013

Pigment print

Image Copyright Miachal Ohana-Cole, courtesy of Pertwee Anderson & Gold

Memento Mori is on exhibit until June 14.