Art lovers savaged by a mutated sheep

Dead animals stitched together for Saatchi exhibition
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Perhaps it is only to be expected from the man who helped acquaint the world with the pickled shark. But the latest additions to Charles Saatchi's collection of contemporary art look set to ruffle a few feathers.

Thomas Grunfeld's Misfits sculptures feature dead animals, which have been intricately sewn together into taxidermy hybrids. A swan's head is joined to a rabbit's body with emu feet; a dog sits with the head of a sheep, a baby deer grows bat wings - all with seemingly non-existent joins.

Grunfeld's work forms part of the Young German Artists 2 exhibition, which opens at the Saatchi Gallery next month. According to the gallery, Grunweld's mutant animals are "a naturalist's dream ... these creatures would seem quite normal alongside the pushmepullyou in Dr Doolittle's zoo."

They sit in naturalistic poses, their additional body parts in scale, so that the viewer has to look twice to see that they are, in fact, artificially engineered.

Charles Saatchi is well-known for his controversial tastes, and these pieces are likely to prove no exception. The catalogue states: "They represent total acts of miscegenation rather than ecological fine tuning ... The suggested implications of the Misfits ... are certainly horrific."

One critic has described them as "pornography of sorts", while another said of them: "Should one's reaction to these outrageously sick objects be anger? However, if you eat meat, how can you object?"

Damien Hirst, who came to prominence aided by Saatchi's patronage, displayed a similarly unconventional interest in the animal world, with The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, his shark suspended in formaldehyde, and Mother and Child Divided - a cow and her calf, both neatly dissected into a walk-through installation.

Grunfeld's works, also shown in glass cases, are unlikely to cause the installation problems of some of Hirst's work, such as Two F, Two Watching, the rotting sculpture of a cow and a bull copulating which New York health officials banned from exhibition.

As the catalogue states, the taxidermied animals are "joined seamlessly", and rather beautifully, leaving the suggestion that they have been genetically rather than surgically combined.

But they are undeniably disturbing, evoking the animals of HG Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau, in which the animals turn on their creator and kill him, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or the freaks of the Victorian era. The viewer is compelled to look, even if they find the image repellent.

Then again, perhaps to a generation slowly coming to terms with genetic engineering, these images are not shocking at all. How much more horrific, for example, if we grafted human body parts onto animals - for instance an ear onto a mouse? Or perhaps even cloned a sheep?

Young German Artists 2, from 11 September to 23 November, Saatchi Gallery, London NW8. Admission is free on Thursdays.

Comments