Monday, 19 November 2012


I don't even remember where I saw the link that led me to 11 Mare St in Hackney, but I thought it would make an interesting diversion for an idle Saturday.

A gentle stroll along Regents Canal left me peckish, so I tried the Hackney Bureau for a fryup sarnie and a generous supply of eye-candy. Then I wandered over to the Last Tuesday Society.

There is a nominal £2 charge to wander around the cluttered collection of weirdness, but it is more than worth it. There is also a £5 fee to allow you to take photos, which, oddly, I'm glad I didn't spend. There is no way my humble photography skills would have done this place any justice at all.

The shop is a curious reflection on birth, life, death, sex and the tangled mess it all is: crammed with books, trinkets, mementos, mounted insects, pictures and taxidermy in an unstructured omnishambles, empty old medicine bottles are side by side with large bottles containing fish fairies and other eerie creatures. Winged cats, mounted butterflies and bird skeletons vie for place with vintage erotica and gothic tat. A curious metaphor for life: messy, beautiful, scary, ugly and weird.

There are a number of pieces of what is clearly intended to be art, but because they're just rammed in with everything else, it's possible to say that they elevate everything in the shop into a form of art, or perhaps they become expensive and improbably useless fripperies like all the other objects in the shop.

I was fortunate enough to be inside the shop on my own, which made the visit downstairs particularly eerie. It was a peculiar combination of the Hunterian Museum and the Natural History Museum, curated by someone off their tits on mind-altering drugs.

I cannot commend this place highly enough, I will be dragging everyone I know off to see it.

And truly, you haven't lived until you've seen a stuffed lion sitting at a table, as though waiting for a cup of tea!


HeartAttackSurvivor said...

As an aside to this, have you had a look at the Wellcome Collection ?
The man was a prodigious collector (there are dozens of packing cases that he'd had sent back from the darkest parts of the continents that were just stacked up and never opened - his mania was for collecting as much as the collection.)
As well as bits like Napoleon's toothbrush, prosthetic limbs from centuries ago, a sheet of tattoed skin, amputation knives and saws, there are also an 18th-century ivory dildo and an Indian miniature of a woman using a dildo and the ‘Whizzinator’ - a device, including a false penis, used by athletes to give ‘clean’ urine samples.
You can waste a couple of hours here, no trouble.

William Gruff said...

Have you ever been to the Horniman Museum? I haven't been inside the place for nearly forty years but from what I recall you could have been describing it, as also the museum in the Barracks, in Berwick-upon-Tweed.