nature morte

nature morte



Musée de la Chassée et de la Nature, Paris


“To one side of the Centre Pompidou in the Rue Beaubourg is the oldest quarter of Paris. Known as Le Marais, this area contains many ancient buildings … just down the Rue des Archives, we went into one of the hôtels (private residences which have mostly become small museums). Called the Musée de la Chassée et de la Nature we discovered once we were inside (not speaking fluent French) that it was a small museum dedicated to “the Cartesian programme of mastering and possessing nature.” Actually, it was the cultural history of blood-sports on three floors, but we did not find that out until we had already paid an entrance fee of ten francs each.

The first floor consisted of Old Master paintings of sporting events, nymphs with dogs and ugly old masters. The second floor was filled from wall to wall with muskets, guns and swords (no doubt featured in the paintings downstairs); different antiques used to kill the enormous number of stuffed animals on the third floor; their heads displayed as trophies from floor to ceiling … A small but gruesome monument to civilised behaviour, and as the old lady with two young children said to the attendant as she left: Au revoir, et merci; eh, c’est un bon souvenir pour les enfants.”

From review Paris – Les Immatériaux
ArtLine May/June 1985
Art in Ruins


Drawing from Cities of the Dead: Grand Opera 1988


As part of our installation for Grand Opera in 1988, we asked curator Annelie Pohlen to obtain a large stuffed animal. When we arrived in Bonn we were taken to the Museum of Natural History. As we entered we were confronted by a display of large animals, including a giraffe, a lion, a zebra and so on; the centrepiece of which was a huge elephant.

Shortly we were approached by a man in a white coat smelling of formaldehyde who took us up in the lift and then out down a long corridor lined on both sides with dozens of antlers. Further on down another long corridor lined with mounted animal heads; and then another with rows of various polythene-wrapped and labelled stuffed animals standing on each side.

When we arrived at his office, he explained to us that the Museum could not consider lending us anything unless we were prepared to guarantee that it would not be damaged in any way … being splattered with paint, for instance. He then gave us a long lecture on how more and more species of wild animals were becoming extinct and how the Museum had a duty to protect the examples in their collection.

We assured him that whatever the Museum loaned for the exhibition would be unharmed. With this reassurance, he took us into another room where he uncovered a magnificent stag.
“These deer were introduced into the forests of Germany from Asia by the King for hunting in the 19th Century. Though alien, they thrived at first, but nowadays are becoming rare. However, this one we can loan to you.”