A little off base: Gallery of Gross
LONDON — Ever wondered what the inside of a real human body looks like? Do you have the urge to see a shrunken head up close? Are you curious to see how big a sperm whale’s heart is?
These odd desires can come true to those who enter the Wellcome Collection, an eccentric gallery full of unusual delights mainly revolving around the human body and the field of medicine.
Named after the late Sir Henry Wellcome, who was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector in the late 1800s and early 1900s, this gallery offers visitors a bizarre mix of artifacts and displays.
The gallery, located near the Underground’s Euston Square station, is free to enter and currently has three exhibits. Two of them are permanent, and the other, dedicated to the heart, is scheduled to run until Sept. 16.
The heart exhibit consists of heart-related artwork and displays. Inside, one can see an actual human heart, animal hearts, anatomical illustrations, a graphic video of heart surgery and a creepy statuette of a woman with seven swords puncturing her heart.
There are also songs, videos and paintings with the heart as their theme, along with sections that delve into the symbolic importance of this vital organ.
Up a staircase from this exhibit is perhaps the most grotesque portion of the gallery: the Medicine Man exhibit.
No photography is allowed in this part of the gallery, and there’s good reason to forbid it. Parallel to a row of unsettling surgical tools are disturbing paintings where blood and gore are commonplace.
Nestled in a far corner past the paintings is a mummified Peruvian male, dated as far back as 1200. The mummy’s leathery skin is not the only thing eerie about it — the body is bundled in the fetal position by rope, the way in which Chimu people buried their dead.
Nearby, a snuff container made from a ram’s head is displayed along with Japanese sexual aids from the 1930s and a 19th-century European chastity belt. The displays also include Napoleon’s toothbrush and hair from King George III.
Through a door is the last exhibit, Medicine Now, containing information on DNA, diseases and body parts. Possibly the most interesting piece is the human slice, a centimeter-thick slab of flesh stood upright, allowing visitors to see inside a fully intact body.
This exhibit has its share of odd pieces of art, including one of a body erupting in large blobs of body fat that metaphorically describe obesity. Next to the blubber art piece is a world map created from dead mosquitoes that has something to do with malarial parasite research.
Although the gallery is a little out there and quirky, it can, at the same time, be interesting and informative as well as interactive.
Plus, with admission costing nil, there’s not much to lose except a few hours out of the day in exchange for the opportunity to view things not typically seen in conventional galleries.
Location: 183 Euston Road, near the Underground’s Euston Square station in central London.What to see: Three exhibits with more than 1,300 displays mainly revolving around the human body and the field of medicine. Some parts may be unsuitable for children.Admission: Free.Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday.Web site:www.wellcomecollection.org