Thursday, 22 November 2012
Pets Academy! Frederique Morrel's patchwork menagerie at the Stephanie Hoppen gallery.
For some bewildering scenes of what-the-fuckery you should head down to the Stephanie Hoppen gallery on Walton Street. Running until December 21st - if it doesn't sell out before then - Pets Academy! is all about Ms Morrel's utterly bonkers fusion of taxidermy and embroidery.
The beasts are life-size, anatomically perfect and almost entirely covered in vintage stitch-work. Some of the fabric looks like it was looted from a church cushion factory. One is a vision of Velásquez's nude, pixelated by the cloth's deft needle-work. Real hooves protrude from fabric bodies. I have never seen anything like it. The most startling thing is that it's all brilliant!
The indefatigable Stephanie Hoppen was a wonderful host, on hand with the artist to explain all the finest details of construction with due passion. Choice cuts of fabric are carefully stretched over fibreglass taxidermist models, bringing to life what would otherwise be quite a crowded room of dead animals. Frederique's eye for detail is superb, the way a nude's curvy bum sits neatly into the muscular groove at the deer's rump shows real consideration for the final outcome. One wall is adorned with at least a dozen doe heads each made up with false eyelashes, a bit of bling and a few more horns than is normal in the wild. At the artist's insistence one of these is hung upside-down adding nothing and distracting a little from the point of the show. No doubt she had her aesthetic/academic reasons for this but unless they are shared and, at least in part, agreed upon, it's ideas like this that come dangerously close to toppling into the ever-broadening masturbatorium of for-the-hell-of-it contemporary art. The works hold their own without the gimmicks.
What could have been a grand orgy for those with a penchant for animal cruelty turned out to be an eclectic, eccentric, presumption defyingly tasteful and fun exhibition. While the turnout seemed slightly low, sales are through the roof; one client bought four before the show even started! This should come as no surprise to anyone as Frederique Morrel has done a fantastic job at creating curiously original works of contemporary art.
Other highlights of the evening include hearing of a client's vexation, and subsequent demands, at having bought a unicorn with a curved horn. And Anastasia, the Ukrainian gallery assistant's, attempts to serve me a cocktail snappily named "Prosecco with elderflower and vodka" - devised to make even the most lowly hobo put a deposit down on a life-sized, multicoloured moose head.