Last month, the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History opened its doors on a clutter of curios in East London. Housed by the Last Tuesday Society, it’s the latest visual expression of the eclectic collections of self-professed aesthete Viktor Wynd, who likely never met a carnivorous plant or ornate animal skull he didn’t like.
The museum bills itself as “the first all encompassing museum to open in London since the Horniman in 1901.” A new book released this month by Prestel — Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders — is a tour through Wynd’s world, from his home to his most beloved museums. The photography by Oskar Proctor, printed in generous full pages, lets you seek out all the hidden oddities in each frame, sort of like looking at a Graeme Base book without the puzzle. Two-headed lambs, a mummified fairy, a bumblebee carved from a cow’s horn, a kitchen full of pitcher plants and Vanda orchids — it’s a dense tableau of real specimens and fabricated oddities (I spotted some conjoined fetuses of the Gemini Company mingling with shrunken heads and a walrus skull in his Cabinet of Death). On the cover, Wynd fashions himself as a modern naturalist with his embodiment of a modern Charles Wilson Peale self-portrait, and throughout narrates in a languid, ironic, somewhat self-loathing tone.
The new museum, with its admission reportedly at £3 — tea included — follows his Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors, and the 200 pages of the book include photographs from that establishment, as well as the homes of his fellow collectors. Tucked at the end of the book, when you’ve either been appalled, exhausted, or won over, is a chapter on how to be a collector yourself, with some actually decent advice. “As you wander through life, some things will grab you,” he writes. Although he immediately follows that up with: “I never knew I needed a hairball from a cow’s stomach until I was offered one for sale.”
Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders is available from Prestel.