A jar containing Kylie Minogue’s poo stands on the shelf of what founder Viktor Wynd says is the first museum to launch in the British capital since the Horniman opened its doors in 1901.
But don’t ask how he got ahold of the alleged specimen. “I used to drink,” he says by way of explanation as he shows the curious contents of his cramped premises ahead of an opening soiree on Friday, where the poo jar is on display.
Situated in hipster Hackney, the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History opens to the public on Wednesday. It is run in conjunction with Wynd’s Last Tuesday Society, which offers 18,000 members a veritable feast of weird experiences and productions. The society is a taxidermy academy and literary society, among other things. It runs kinky balls and odd events like an evening of loss, which involves getting a group together to peel onions to facilitate crying. Some of the stuffed animals that have come out of the taxidermy classes are on display in the new institution.
“The museum will present an incoherent vision of the world, displayed through wonder, enclosed within a tiny space,” Wynd says. “No attempt is made at classification and comprehensiveness; instead the museum focuses on the pre enlightenment origins of the museum as wunderkabinett, a mirror to a world so suffused with miracles and beauty that any attempt at categorization is bound to fail.”
The museum explores the arcane, the odd, and the macabre, from stuffed animals with an unusual number of limbs to life-sized dolls including a number of Scarecrow-like creations on display from artist Marcelle Hanselaar.
Wynd has traveled extensively to collect the contents of his collection, which also includes Dodo bones and feathers from extinct birds.
He calls himself a multidisciplinary artist and works in the fields of installation and relational aesthetics which means, among other things, that he creates what he calls “elaborate tableaux which can involve thousands of people.” Think unpredictable masquerade balls.
The museum covers two floors and contains a gallery upstairs where Wynd’s first exhibition on British Surrealism shares a dark room filled with African masks found on some of his trips. On Friday, it also doubled as a breakfast room for the opening events, where attendees washed down an ox-heart breakfast sandwich with oysters. There, Wynd confesses that he had spent the night sleeping on the floor, after a technical glitch was discovered around midnight. This explains the crumpled look of his beautiful red velvet suit paired with cowboy boots and a flowery style shirt. “I like colorful clothing,” he says.
The heart of the museum is in the basement, which is reached via a winding stairwell sprayed in gold that leads to Wynd’s den of discoveries.
How many items are on display is anyone’s guess. “I call collecting a disease in my book,” he said referring to his new tome Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders released in early October, in which he claims that collectors are the ultimate artists and that the world is full of wonder but is in danger of being sanitized.
“Collecting is a habit which most people grow out of when they hit puberty,” he says. “Unfortunately, I did not, so I like going places where you cannot buy things. It was much better before Kindle came along because my suitcase would be filled with books.”
The former contents of his suitcase can now be seen in delightfully crammed glass display cabinets, which include more traditional types of curiosities, like a shrunken head and stuffed animal heads, along with things he finds amusing, like a series of books with titles like Sex Instructions for Irish Farmers and The Naughty Nuns. “They make me laugh,” he says.
The books are displayed in a room that includes a series of preserved bottoms from Glaswegian prostitutes and a collection of walrus penises. These are shown alongside Wynd’s collection of butterflies, which he assembled as a boy and which features all 52 types of butterflies found in England, although four are no longer around, he explains.
“The main idea of the museum is to cheer people up,” Wynd says.
A jar containing what is described as Russell Crowe’s piss, which was sent to him as a gift, and another containing what he describes as Amy Winehouse’s poo are also on display. “I charge five pounds for a sniff,” Wynd says.
Other exhibits in the room include an eight-legged lamb, scallop shells with a bumpy surface that were recovered from Fukushima, the Japanese town hit by a nuclear disaster after the 2011 tsunami, and a small coffin with a label which says it contains darkness from Moses.
One cabinet dedicated to dandies features a glittery red suit.
A second room includes a football-sized ball of hair found in a cow’s stomach and the shrunken head. Mr. Wynd said the shrinking process includes filling the head with hot sand and boiling it with herbs.
Although neither of these artifacts is likely to whet one’s appetite, the museum can now be rented out for dinner parties. “I see the whole place as a sculpture and am interested in the reactions which are likely to be very different to how people react to their surroundings at a regular dinner party,” he says.
Such museums have a long history even if his is slightly different thanks to its odd contents.
“Curiosity cabinets are really a 16th century thing of trying to understand the world,” Wynd says. “People just wanted to collection everything and were interested in the wonders of the world.”
The museum is currently also suffused with a range of artworks by known and “completely unknown” artists whose pieces makes up what Wynd calls the Infected Museum, or a hidden exhibition show within his cabinet, which he thinks of as infecting the main collection.
Meanwhile, the range of disciplines represented is what Wynd says allows him to lay claim to being the first fully fledged new museum in London.
“There have been new galleries, but, as far as I know, this is the first museum with more than one section to open in London since 1901. We have an art museum upstairs, a collection of curiosities and a natural history section,” he says.
The cluttered look and feel is deliberate. According to Wynd, “Freddie Mercury once said he wanted to lead a Victorian life surrounded by exquisite clutter.”