Sculpture Season at the Grant Museum of Zoology, Wed 5 June – Sat 31 August.
To my shame I never went to the Grant Museum of Zoology while I was a student at UCL. The only museum of zoology in London, its is the place to go if you want to see a Quagga skeleton or a jar of moles. The Grant Museum moved into UCL’s Rockerfeller Building in 2010, designed by Paul Waterhouse (1861-1924), son of Alfred Waterhouse, to house the UCL Medical Schools. You can definitely see the influence of the Gothic Revival in the red brick and portland stone facade and the wrought iron interiors of the Gower Street building, which was completed in 1907. The rooms now housing the zoological collection originally functioned as the medical school library, but is now full, from floor to ceiling, with glass cases of skeletons, stuffed animals and microscope slides.
My visit was prompted by finding out about Sculpture Season at the Grant Museum. Students from the Slade School of Art, studying sculpture, had been invited to make interventions into and around the museum collections, in collaboration with the museum’s curators.
As Melanie Jackson, Head of Undergraduate Sculpture at the Slade School of Art writes:
Sculpture is often described as capturing or materialising a thought through an object or space. It is not an as an act of memorialisation but an active process, an event – an intervention, as the works in the show perform … it allows 13 emerging artists from the Slade to position their work in a unique setting that helps to tease out what is at stake, to speculate on what these emerging new definitions of animism might become, and their own relationships with the generative process of art making.
I was really intrigued by the range of techniques and materials the students had used, from digital collage to oasis and clay that had been carved out by tunneling mice and rats! The interventions made into the space were bold and witty, digital prints were pasted like stained glass onto the huge windows and stuffed fabric sculptures were squashed into cabinets or slumped across voids. Themes such as life, death and our respect for the body as scientific subject were explored in subtle and poignant ways, particularly in Shinobu Soejima’s Adorn My Sleep, a kiwi specimen, which has been tenderly tucked into a hand-made cotton bed.
This was all food for thought for a project I am currently dreaming up about sculpture and scientific collections and I’d urge you all to visit the Grant Museum and see the students’ work before the season ends on the 31st August.
You can read more about the Sculpture Season here.
You can find out more about the history of the Grant Museum of Zoology here.