Alexis Turner

Squirrels playing cards, a banquet of lobsters, Siamese lamb, a leopard’s skull turned into an ink well: these are but some of the applications of the art of taxidermy in the XIXth century. It’s a shame one has to put on glasses to decipher the tiny letters in this fascinating book. As it tells us the story of this particular art form, we learn as much about ourselves and our relationship to animals and death. A platypus of Raoul Ward’s in 1904, the extraordinary tropical birds under a bell in the Gardner home in London in 1880 or the family dogs stuffed by Hutchings of Aberystwyth must feel very lonely: taxidermists today are an endangered species. At the Muséum d’histoire naturelle in Paris, after Jack Thiney left in 2012, only two are left. Only hunters can assure the business for the few private practitioners left. Strangely enough, just when this century-old know-how is on the road to extinction, fashion, brands of erotic lingerie or contemporary artist such as Jan Fabre, Wim Delvoye, or Adel Abdessemed are rediscovering how fascinating an art it is …

Taxidermie by Alexis Turner, Gallimard, 2013, 256 p., €35 (translation from the English, original title Taxidermy Thames & Hudson).

Taxidermie - Alexis Turner

Review published in the newsletter #321 - from 7 November 2013 to 13 November 2013

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