TIER, a must-see exhibition of the Dutch Taxidermy duo Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren!
The TIER exhibition of Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren and Armando is held at the MOA Museum, situated in a lovely park just outside Utrecht. The park and the museum are beautiful, the area is so green and a magnificent example of the age of Enlightenment and worth a visit even without this wonderful exhibition, but as I am huge fan and deeply intrigued by the work of the Dutch taxidermists artistic displays, I did not want to miss the opportunity to see their artwork with animals from up close!
On our way to the MOA Museum
It’s a beautiful sunny day when I pick up a dear friend and drive towards Utrecht. We are visiting the MOA, a small but delightful museum, situated in a magnificent park with lots of historical value. The museum itself is unique. Once occupied even by the brother of Napoleon, who had the dream to turn the park surrounding the building, into a zoo. Apparently, he was called back by his brother before his dream could come true.
A guided tour through the MOA
We start the day with a coffee in the cozy tearoom De Veldkeulen, that does not just serve drinks but also wonderful homemade cakes. I am so easily seduced when it comes to home-baked cakes...ah, no chance of sticking to my diet! We met at the reception afterward with the person who lives in the other beautiful building on the site and who knew so much about the house itself, Arjen Meurs.
Mesmerized by the work of Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren
The MOA has a permanent exhibition of the artist Armando and every exhibition always connects, in some way, with him. As I had written about Darwin, Sinke & Van Tongeren before on this blog, I was invited to come and see it for myself. And from the very first moment, I was taken, mesmerized even.
You see, in the video on Vimeo, you get a good taste what taxidermy really means. It is also very dirty work and work that requires, at this high level such as shown by Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren, absolutely more than just an insight on dimensions, posture, and traits of the animal. The way they do it is pure art.
Taxidermy at this level is not about *stuffed animals*!
I never had the impression of looking at *stuffed animals*. They all looked so real, so alive almost, so beautifully arranged.
Take the snakes. Now, these are the top 7 of most venomous snakes in the world. Snakes are incredible creatures that have developed traits and characteristics over time that make them the formidable hunters they are. They may be a symbol for evil to some, but if you take away all those silly beliefs and look just at the sheer beauty of its skin, its abilities as an animal to survive and thrive even, you see the true wonder of nature.
Freek Vonk, one of the most beloved and famous biologists in the Netherlands came to see this particular piece of art as he is a venom specialist and a snake enthusiast. He told Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren, they had been lucky. Even when a venomous snake is dead, it doesn’t mean it’s harmless. The tiniest drop of venom, still in the body, could have provoked serious consequences!
This piece is not for sale and as I understood, the owner is Damien Hirst, who bought a large collection from the Dutch taxidermy couple. He actually bought their entire collection called La Vie dans L’Eden (most of the pieces are created especially for the museum’s exhibition and are for sale)
Wandering through history
As we wandered through the rooms, we felt like how it must have been to live here through the ages. We saw the room were once a kitchen was temporarily placed during the war. Parts of the antique wallpaper being damaged from the heat of cooking were visible. And somehow, it did nothing bad to the room. It lived, if you like, even more, because of it.
Antique and unique Chinese wallpaper
This house also hosts a magnificent example of 250-year-old Chinese wallpaper. It was brought from China by the V.O.C. (Dutch East India Company) around 1750-1770 and sceneries of birds, hunting and dragon boat races tell us the story of China at that time.
Why is this a must-see exhibition?
I have asked myself, the very first time I saw the work of Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren why I feel so conflicted about my admiration for their work. And perhaps that is exactly what art also aims to provoke. To make you think and reflect.
I was, as a child, a typical horse-girl, obsessing over them as so many girls do. My hubby is a veterinarian and we have a respect and admiration for animals that goes beyond the ‘’oh how cute is this cat, dog, hamster’’ and so forth. I have a particular fondness for ‘weird animals’ such as Orinoco dolphins, capybaras, and belugas etc. But I also wear leather and eat meat. Both these products are often the end result of some or lots of suffering of an animal.
Our relationship with animals is complicated. We admire them, they inspire us, sometimes we make them into Gods, sometimes in the name of God we do the most horrific things to them. Every single day, our lives are somehow filled with the living and breathing animal world.
I can say that I am an animal lover, yet when I go to the butcher, what am I? And if I have a fondness for the Wunderkammer (but wouldn’t place it in my home) as the curious way it once was, of showing our admiration but also domination of the world, colonies, and nature, what does that say about me? What if I really like the work of Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren? Is it ok, because the animals used all died in zoo’s and at breeders of natural causes?
This is what art means to do, make you think, make you reflect. What I see is the love and admiration, this artistic duo shows for animals. Their commitment to creating something that honors the animal is present in all you see. And the work is never gruesome. Although perhaps I must warn you: one object just contains three heads of horses. The eyes are made of antique cannon bullets. It makes it less realistic, but it is a strong impact piece that might not go down well with children.
Tell me what you think?
I would love to know what you think about this form of art. And if you have visited the museum, I would love to know what you thought about it!
- Please visit the website for more information about the park itself, the houses, the possibilities for leisure activities in and around the park and the lunch- and coffeehouse De Veldkeuken, and of course: the collection of Armando and Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren: TIER.
- The exhibition runs from 25th of March 2017- 10th of September 2017.
- The address of the park and the museum: Koningslaan 9. Bunnik.