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Final thoughts

September 9, 2010

I forgot to tell you about - FEATHERS and FOSSILS, SKELETONS and SKULLS.

First: FEATHERS. Birds as a design motif have been with us for an easy three to four years - but not so in three dimensions. We are familiar with them from prints and embroideries, but at this show fully reconstituted stuffed birds appeared in full plumage and frequently. I did mention previously an exhibit using full-size peacocks perched at the end or in the midst of table settings. I am not sure "perched" is the right word because those suckers weigh more than 30 pounds and, including their prized tail feathers, they fan out when they are angry or just plain want to strut their stuff, can be 5-6 feet long. So, think banquet tables, not your average 36" round. I also couldn't help wondering how you would care for them. Do you dust them or do you vacuum? And where do you put them after the party is over - your patio or front lawn perhaps? However, in addition to peacocks, there were herons, ibis, kingfishers, eagles and owls - all very real thanks to the hot revival of taxidermy.

TAXIDERMY, in fact, not only brought an 8-ft. high polar bear to the show but a whole menagerie of exotic wildlife including the mounted heads of rhino and buffalo and a full-size bison curtained to the floor by its own dreadlocks, but enough stuffed leopards, lions and zebras to make up for 30 years of big game hunting - imagine, all in an instant by way of an order.
No doubt they will raise the hackles of animal protectionists.
Anticipated by vendors, they carefully explain that, although you would never know it, the larger, thick-hided beasts are repros in polyester. With the furrier ones, they provide certificates of legitimate acquisition - from zoos or wild life preserves where dead animals are harvested and sold for taxidermy. Fashionable or not, I find dead animals creepy.

Speaking of creepy: Multiple SKELETONS appeared here for the first time that I remember. Of birds, of reptiles and other species. Given their fragility, they, too, conjure up questions of maintenance, which may be why most come under glass or plexi. Mercifully, human skulls are not yet part of this trend as one might wonder if they are part of a science project, a trophy kill or one of the relatives.
Artificial SKULLS, on the other hand, are far more benign and could be considered a wink wink reference to Goth or the vampire craze, or, they could be channeling DAMIEN HIRST. His diamond-studded skull brought millions at auction several years ago while the knock-off artists brought down the price here to a mere hundred dollars. But then, theirs are covered in rhinestones - what a let-down! Some are just for fun - oversized, in blue or red lacquer or guilded, they are only good enough to scare the kids at Halloween.

FOSSILS are another thing altogether. Petrified while enshrined by Mother Nature over thousands of years, they warrant careful study and appreciation for the multitude of natural forms. They are also easy on the housekeeping and provide truly unique and handsome decorative pieces that can live happily in both modern and traditional interiors.
Their equally useful relatives are mineral formations and natural coral which continues to be a much loved and used natural accessory. Their huge variety makes collecting almost imperative.

This concludes my report on the show's CABINET DE CURIOSITES, or, as one exhibitor labeled them OBJETS DE HAZARD - Accidental Objects.
Au Revoir, Paris - and one of the best shows on earth.