Nerver Ask an Artist How to Skin a Cat: Taxidermy Cats in Art

By RAINA BELLEAU

After hearing the idiom, “There are many ways to skin a cat”, my friend turned to me and asked, “Who would even want to skin a cat?” Well, here is a brief list with photos of artists who might know the answer to both these intriguing questions.

Love Saves Life, 1995

Maurizio Cattelan is one of my favorite artists working with taxidermy. As you can see by this sculpture, he knows how to skin a cat, or maybe he knows someone who could do it for him. But a quick search on Google can tell you that he certainly knows how to skin a horse. My favorite piece involves a squirrel but this is a post about cats.

Catt, 2011

Catt, 2010

This is a work by Eva and Franco Mattes and it was inspired by a cat meme. But it also bears a striking resemblance to the work of Cattelan. (Notice how the title of the piece is spelled?) So, being contemporary artists, the pair decided to pass the work off as an original Cattelan. I’m not sure where they got this tabby specimen. Here is a link to their webpage about this amusing object: http://0100101110101101.org/new-sculpture-by-cattelan-turns-out-to-be-an-art-prank/

The Kittens’ Tea Party

Walter Potter was a Victorian taxidermist with a sense of whimsy. And he certainly skinned many a cat in his day. Including this handsome devil to our left. Potter was the creator of his own museum of curiosities and magical, narrative dioramas like “The Kittens’ Tea Party”, “The Kittens’ Wedding” and others. Some are illustrations of popular Victorian nursery rhymes featuring the many birds of England and there are also many rabbits. Like many famous taxidermists, he got his start as a young man with a bird carcass and he started work on his museum at age nineteen. Potter is still very popular in the eclectic world of taxidermy enthusiasts. Unfortunately, Walter Potter’s Museum of Curiosities was closed and without a buyer for the entire collection, his artifacts were sold and scattered around the world. There is a very depressing chapter on this sad occurrence in Melissa Millgrom’s book, Still Life:Adventures in taxidermy, which is reviewed in an earlier post.

 Dearest Cat Pinkeltje, 2009

My Dearest Cat Pinkeltje, 2009

This purse is the work of a Danish artist who goes by the name Tinkebell. I’ll warn you that her work will turn more sensitive stomachs. The story of the piece is that she killed her own cat in order to make this purse. I know how that sounds, and I’m not here to tell you how to think about this artwork or if that’s even what you want to call it. We can just hope that it’s just a story meant to create an emotional response and isn’t entirely true. If you would like to learn more, I can send you to her gallery: http://www.torchgallery.com/tinkebell-/my-dearest-cat-pinkeltje.html?scroll=0 /

If you are intrigued and would like to see more, look at her other piece, Popple, which is a dog that is turned inside out to reveal a cat. The is a GIF out there that is somewhat disturbing.

AND NOW A QUICK LIST OF TAXIDERMY CATS IN ART

( Because there seem to be a lot of artists out there who are in the business of cat skinning.)

Sophie Calle:

Chambre 20, Sophie Calle

Chambre 20, Sophie Calle

Sophie Calle, Days Under the Sign of B, C & W, 1998,

(Notice how Sophie Calle used the same cat!)

Fabian Boschung

Fabian Boschung, Scapula, 2011

David Shrigley

 David Shrigley, I'm Dead, 2011

David Shrigley, I’m Dead, 2011

Kate Puxley (Please note the materials)

Kate Puxley, Senza Terra: Cats, Domestic taxidermy cat and taxidermy stray cats 2012

And a favorite of the Jenks Society for Lost Museums: Mark Dion

Mark Dion, Scala Naturae, 1994

Mark Dion, Tar and Feathers, 1996

Mark Dion, Tar and Feathers, 1996

Next time we have the chance, we just might ask Mark about these cats.

Now you know who would want to skin a cat. And if your hunger for taxidermy in art has yet to be satiated, check out this tumbler that was very helpful in compiling this list: http://taxidermy-in-art.tumblr.com/ It’s in French but brilliant none the less.

Please Note:

The Jenks Society for Lost Museums is not responsible for any cats that were skinned to make this art nor do we advocate for the skinning of cats.

No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

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