Death: A Self Portrait

Arm yourself with a strokeable beard and a turtle neck, then prepare to face your destiny at the Wellcome Collection…


‘Calavera’ – The Mondongo Collective

As a UCL student, you have inevitably walked past The Wellcome Collection on Euston Road – but the state in which UCL students walk down Euston Road is not usually conducive to them taking an interest in what they walking past. We are normally in one of three oblivious states: the catatonic 9am haze, the ‘I’m not incontinent, but I am stupidly late’ sprint-walk, or the drunken stumble towards the bus station when the stench of Phineas has gotten too much. But on that rare occasion when you are energised, have plenty of time and are not completely intoxicated, ‘Death: A Self-Portrait’ is definitely worth a look.

The darkest of Richard Harris’ macabre collection are waiting to be gawped and grimaced at, or shied away from. There is no risk of not ‘getting’ a gallery such as this as we all have that same sense of mortality that the artists’ on display had, so their work will undoubtedly strike a chord. What’s more, it’s free and a five minute walk from any part of UCL – so you haven’t really got any excuses.

The diversity of Harris’ collection powerfully underlines humanity’s historic and instinctive fascination with the final curtain: you’ll find beautiful, contemplative still-lifes, gut-wrenching sculptures and occasionally something that truly turns your spine to ice. Highlights include a giant, gaudy plasticine skull from Argentina, a trio of fantastically creepy etchings by Albert Besnard and John Isaac’s vomit-in-mouth brutal ‘Are You Still Mad at Me?’

A special mention must be made for the Tau Tau: a bone-chilling wooden effigy of a child, sitting on a rickety chair, dressed in rags and staring eternally into your soul. Despite being slap bang in the middle of a fairly busy room, no one was going anywhere near it – people were visibly shivering when they glanced at it, although most consciously chose to ignore it.

Let’s face it: we’re all going to die, and that’s why ‘Death: A Self-Portrait’ is so compelling – it’s dealing with a universal theme, one that will keep bugging you until you’re pushing up the daisies yourself.

The exhibition is running until the 24th February, is open Tuesday through to Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 and 11:00 – 18:00 on Sunday.