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POLLY MORGAN | INVESTING IN ART
In this article in our ‘Investing in Art’ series we offer a peak at the out-of-the-ordinary art of Polly Morgan and ask what it reveals about the relationship between her art form, art world status and celebrity.
 
Morgan’s macabre and unsettling works, including a coffin bursting with open-mouthed chicks and a fox being strangled by a giant octopus, have won her celebrity fans including Kate Moss, as well as significant media coverage.
Taxidermist Polly Morgan, described by Banksy as ‘Britain’s hottest bird-stuffer’, is one of the country’s most high-profile young artists. In 2005, she was an English Literature graduate working as a barmaid with a fascination for taxidermy. Today, having been spotted by Banksy, hailed by Hirst, and collected by Saatchi, she is gracing the stage of the art world’s most exclusive galleries, fairs and public museums.

What is taxidermy? The word derives from the Greek for 'arranging or preparing skin'. Traditionally, it is the art form in which a taxidermist stuffs and mounts dead animals, creating a realistic representation of that specimen by presenting it to resemble its naturalistic form from when it was still alive. Popular with the Victorians, Polly Morgan is now bringing the art form up to date and has a decidedly less conventional way of representing her animals. The artist decided to pursue a novel career in taxidermy after finishing a course with the celebrated taxidermist, George Jamieson, and since this time her approach has been “to go in the other direction to where I think everyone else is going”. - Polly Morgan.
Polly Morgan

Myocardial Infarction (b&w) , 2011

53(w) x 69(h) cm
21.18(w) x 27.36(h) inches
Lithograph on Somerset velvet 300g
Edition of 10
PRICE (INCL. VAT)
£ 900.00
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Morgan doesn’t seek to mimic the natural habitats of her subjects or present them as they may have been in life; Polly Morgan places her animals in unexpected and unnatural settings in order to encourage the viewer to look at them with fresh eyes and with no preconceptions. Morgan believes that as raw materials, animals cannot be enhanced, for they are perfect down to the last, minute hair, and the only imaginative alternative is to distort, displace or mutate. For the artist the animals function as ready-mades, and are combined with other found objects: a leather-bound prayer book, or a miniature chandelier, to create uncanny, three-dimensional still-lives.

The work itself is careful, exquisite and dark. Coiled snakes are sculptures, mounted on marble plinths; Lovebirds sit gazing at their reflections in miniature mirrors above tiny splayed-out mouse rugs and wilting pheasant chicks in Still Birth quietly defy gravity as they’re helplessly suspended from resin-coated balloons. Morgan’s later pieces are even more ambitious in scale and production and have come to the attention of notable collectors. Departures, the flying machine cage harnessed to a flock of birds including three white vultures, sold in 2009 to a German collector for £85,000 and by 2011 Morgan had her rats in champagne glasses exhibited alongside works by world-renowned artist Jeff Koons, Gary Hume and Grayson Perry.
Polly Morgan

Still Birth , 2010

26(w) x 52(h) cm
10.24(w) x 20.47(h) inches
Taxidermy pheasant chick, wire, resin, glass and MDF

Edition of 10
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Her unique pieces approaching £100,000 have been exhibited in increasingly high-profile shows, including one at Jay Jopling’s White Cube and another curated by Banksy himself. The success has come swiftly. With her status comes a danger, and it is one of which Morgan is aware, that taxidermy is ‘trendy’ right now and there was certainly a recent period where no shabby-chic East London bar was complete without a moth-eaten stag's head on the wall. As well as the ‘in vogue’ subject matter of the work, comes the profiles of some of her collectors whose endorsement has saddled her at times with the description "Taxidermist to the Stars", but she attests, "I don't suppose I sell to any more celebrities than anyone else - I’d be a bit worried if I did. It suggests you're a bit of a fad”. Morgan's work is certainly evolving, whether as a conscious reaction to fears of faddishness or not. The decorative, dollhouse-scale works are being joined by the bolder and more defiantly sculptural pieces, such as the giant stag of her 2012 show ‘Endless Plains’ which was disembowelled to reveal bats hanging from its rib-cage.

Shortly before Endless Plains opened in London, in 2011, Morgan collaborated with Eyestorm on two very different and unique limited edition screen prints, stepping away from her 3D work entirely. Myocardial Infarction depicts a group of Lovebirds feeding from a heart and the image follow the concept of Morgan’s work by focussing on the utilization of death, whilst referencing the drawings of 19th century illustrators such as Edward Lear and John James Audubon. Usually regarded as social and affectionate creatures, the brightly hued taxidermy Lovebirds in Polly Morgan’s Myocardial Infarction scavenge over the bleeding heart. The construction bears a contradiction between beauty and brutality that is an unsettling reminder of primal instinct in life, immortalised in death by the artist. Myocardial Infarction (B&W) offers an opportunity to collect this seminal image in an exclusive edition of only 10 prints as well as a rare example of a work of art on paper by the artist.
Polly Morgan

Myocardial Infarction , 2011

53(w) x 69(h) cm
21.18(w) x 27.36(h) inches
Lithograph with hand drawn elements on Somerset velvet 300g
Edition of 50
PRICE (INCL. VAT)
£ 600.00
Only 4 left at this price
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Morgan’s fascinating dialogue on the universal act of living and dying is one which will carry relevance in art discourse for a long time to come. Indeed it’s a theme which has been visited throughout art history since time immemorial so the notion of celebrity cannot override the integrity of the work itself. Identifying with Morgan’s specific relation to the art form is clear when we stand in front of works such as Over and Out and the cacophony of sound seeming to come from the tiny bird beaks, open in unison as they amplify a chorus of song from the head of a telephone. They help illustrate the inherent paradox of taxidermy for Polly Morgan which is that “it forces us to confront death, but also makes us feel we can defeat it, superficially at least”- Polly Morgan.

*Polly Morgan is a member of the Guild of Taxidermists, which adheres to and promotes the law pertaining to taxidermy, and keeps a detailed log of all animals in stock. All taxidermised animals are either road casualties or have been donated to the artist by pet owners and vets after natural or unpreventable deaths.
 
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