Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Museum of Objects

'Who wouldn't ride a time machine given the opportunity?  Objects from the past can perform this function, as long as the passenger in these time machines has imagination and a desire to learn. Every object tells a story,' says the catalogue and this collection is certainly full of narratives.  I couldn't resist this exhibition when I was passing through London, recommended by a writer friend.
Seemingly random juxtapositions
Art dealer Oliver Hoare described it as his 'cabinet of curiosities'; the beautiful, the bizarre and the wonderful, in a private house rather than a museum. The elegant house in Fitzroy Square, once home to the Omega workshop, has no advertising outside at all.  You have to go up to the plain door of number 33 and ring the bell.  When it opens you are taken inside, treated like a very special guest, given a catalogue and let loose in the beautiful rooms to wander as you please, to sit on the big sofas and let your imagination run wild.

Every object was special and had its own history, but there were certain ones that kept me coming back to stare at them.  I loved the gigantic Tibetan drum hung from the ceiling, next to Picasso's Guitar.


Picasso's Guitar started out in Peru and had a story that I almost didn't believe.

Then there was the collection of erotic Scrimshaw; the work of shipbound, sex-starved whalers, often at sea for a year or more.

A wonderful collection of ivory and wooden phalluses. Some of them were ritualistic, taken from Tibetan temples, others had more personal uses.  Whaler's wives were often known to have them hidden when their husbands were away;  some were used by 'ladies of the night'.  Frankly I thought they looked rather uncomfortable!


I loved the Inuit baby blanket made from the down of Eider ducks.  Apparently the Eider would nest within Inuit communities for protection from predators and people believed that the birds left the down in their nests as a reward.  The skill that turned the down into fabric to wrap a baby has, apparently been lost now.

Vanished like the Dodo - whose bronze skeleton stands in one of the windows.

Some of the juxtapositions are thought provoking.  There is a sword that belonged to one of the guards of the Archduke of Austria, which lies on a sideboard next to the 1st century BC amputated marble foot of the Emperor Augustus.


One of my favourite exhibits was the book of poetry from 16th century Afghanistan, beautifully written and illuminated, that reminds us that this is a country with a long and distinguished cultural history.

Sadly, my photo of  the 12th century Iranian 'Mirror of the Soul' didn't come out.  It was copper, polished and beaten and then inscribed with words and came from the mystical concept that 'part of the human being could be polished by certain spiritual practices to the point that it could reflect a higher reality.'  The idea came from China, but became an important symbol in Islamic literature.

The Museum of Objects is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking exhibitions I've been to for a long time. It reminded me of Orhan Pamuk's project 'The Museum of Innocence' and the book he wrote about it called 'The Innocence of Objects'. He bought a house, which he made the setting for a novel and filled the house with the objects relating to the story and the characters.  It is now a museum in Istanbul.



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