The Nature of the Beast: Meditations on Life, Death, and the Art of Collecting

curated by JD Powe and Morbid Anatomy

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  • Online: 
    starting September 9, 2021

    On view at
    291 Church St
    September 10 - October 23, 2021
    Tues - Sat, 1-6 pm
From intricate Victorian dioramas featuring squirrels and frogs engaged in whimsical human pursuits, to a stunning array of taxidermy pets frozen in time, to hundreds of ashtrays and inkwells made from the preserved hooves of horses, this exhibition explores the curious human drive to possess, preserve and memorialize other members of the animal kingdom via the astounding taxidermy collection of JD Powe.

The exhibit strives to entertain and enlighten as it explores the tenuous modus vivendi of oscillating between joy and madness that is known only to the most dedicated of collectors, while bridging the gap between past and present cultural norms. It will also offer a tantalizing glimpse into the unique mind-space of an antique taxidermy collector's attempt to strike the precarious balance between benign pastime and outright obsession.

* Special thanks to Zach Ishmael, photographer, for images from Best Friends Forever: The World's Greatest Collection of Taxidermy Dogs, by J.D. Powe (Cernunnos/Abrams 2021).
The Nature of the Beast, Installation view.

A collector of rare and antique taxidermy, author and curator JD Powe earned a B.A. in the History of Science from Harvard University. He has loaned specimens to the Morbid Anatomy Museum and the Adirondack Experience. His first book is Best Friends Forever: The World's Greatest Collection of Taxidermy Dogs (Cernunnos/Abrams 2021).

Morbid Anatomy is a project dedicated to the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture. Founded by multidisciplinary artist Joanna Ebenstein, today it is run by Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier.

Brochure Images

A collection of miniature dogs enclosed in antique glass vitrines, c. 1870 and later, along with mounted animal foot sporting trophies c. 1890-1940*

Taxidermy dogs featuring a beloved farm dog named "Kickstart"*

Yorkshire terrier in case with ball, fancy cushion with gold rope accent, c. 1890*

Domed 19th century spaniel*

A pair of preserved antique French poodles, c. 1940, with an antique lion rug that is said to have been hunted by Ernest Hemingway*

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.