BROOKLYN, NY—A wine and cheese party was held at this uniquely eccentric Brooklyn museum to celebrate the opening of a new, mind-boggling exhibition, called The Collector’s Cabinet, the second at this institution since its opening last June.
The festivities began when curator and co-founder Joanna Ebenstein introduced the exhibitors, each a collector of oddly interesting items, and invited them to expound upon the items in their own display assemblage. Antique dealers, eccentrics and hoarders of unusual artworks plus a few medical professionals made up the list of contributors.
The range of things on display was eclectic to say the least, and included painted wooden religious figures, dental models representing the wide range of shapes of human teeth, séance props and a disarticulated skeleton and historic anatomical charts. One wall was covered with an artistically-cheesy, carnival-type tent banner for a magician. Large glass cases in the middle of the room contained taxidermy specimens of squirrels dressed and posed in anthropomorphic situations: patrons imbibing at a bar and bikini clad, topless exotic dancers. A pair of candlesticks was unique in that it was composed of actual, preserved baboon forearms. One wall display was a View-Master-like, 3-D, back-lit viewer with images of 19th century French miniature, sculpted diabolical tableaux. On display also were four cute little paired terra-cotta figurines of Death leading medieval characters to their doom, examples of what is called Danse Macabre or Totentanz.
One by one, each collector spoke briefly about the history and significance of the item or the array that they had lent to the museum for this show. Art historians, antique enthusiasts and lovers of the off-beat crowded around and took obvious delight at each station.
Among the luminaries to present was Evan Michelson, co-star of TV’s long-running series, Oddities, and co-owner of the NYC antiques boutique, Obscura. She demonstrated a pair of primitive artificial arms that once belonged to an unfortunate railway brake-man who lost his own arms in a terrible accident, but resumed his railroad career with these wooden replacements!
The several taxidermy specimens included a kitten born with two faces, a two-faced calf-head, plus a seven-legged, two-bodied piglet.
Morbid Anatomy Museum co-founder and board chair Tracy Hurley Martin loaned one of the more serious and prestigious of the antiquities, a leather-bound first edition of the 18th century Kuper-Bibel (Copper Bible), a compendium of art, mysticism, religion and the science, containing exquisite copper engravings of cosmography, paleontology, zoology, botany and anatomy. This volume, along with various unclassifiable curiosities, articles of religious iconography, and tame, antiquated erotic images comprises representative sampling of the diverse spectrum of objects that embody the spirit of this museum of the forgotten but truly fascinating.