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Little Shop of Horrors

Taxidermy, ghoulish curios and quirky objets make for a compelling emporium.

December 01 2010
Lucia van der Post

Viktor Wynd is one of London’s more exotic inhabitants. His Last Tuesday Society has become something of an insiders’ club, given to holding engaging little soirées and gatherings of the artistically and the intellectually inclined whenever he can find an attractive venue, an invigorating speaker, or thinks up a suitably interesting theme. Halloween and Guy Fawkes seem to attract his attention, particularly offering, as they do, plenty of scope for the slightly ghoulish and otherwordly. Sometimes he lays on very grand balls, often masked and with faintly ghostly themes. He glories in the title of Chancellor of The Last Tuesday Society.

You will not, therefore, be expecting a suburban little shop selling anything useful such as haberdashery or baked beans. His Little Shop of Horrors in Bethnal Green is tiny, exotic and as far from your average emporium as a Galliano dress is from Primark. He describes it as “an attempt to recreate or reinterpret, within 21st-century sensibilities, a 17th-century Kunstkamera, a collection of objects assembled at a whim on the basis of their aesthetic or historical appeal”. Part museum, part gallery, part shop, here is an extraordinary collection of the weird and wonderful.

Curiosities and oddities are what it claims to offer and it does not disappoint. Taxidermy, How To Spend It readers will be well aware, has a new, cultish following and Wynd has a changing cast of specimens, from exotic rare birds (19th-century scarlet macaw, £1,200) to mice and rats, monkeys and foxes. Crows would set you back some £110, whilst a pair of ducklings would be £25, a fringe-eared oryx, £820, and a wonderful sable from the Africa savannahs about £825.

Everywhere there are glass domes protecting strange body parts and foetuses, skeletons and shrunken heads (14th-century Dayak head hunter’s skull, £8,000), weirdly beautiful objets that Wynd has happened upon in the course of his travels. If it sounds ghoulish, it is – but it is also strangely enchanting and there are some oddly beguiling things to buy. Fossils, beloved of children, can be had for as little as £10 (a mammoth tooth) whilst a selection of ammonites can be bought for anything from £50 to £120. Many of the things Wynd has collected are of some historical or anthropological importance but there are also old-fashioned tin wind-up toys (£7 for a chicken or penguin, £35 for a robot), peculiar plants, rare books, chocolates in the shape of anatomical parts (£6 for three) and a revolving series of the work of offbeat artists.

Small boys – if they’re not scared stiff – will love it, and if you’re thinking of creating your very own cabinet de curiosités, this would be a perfect place to start.