London Through The Looking Glass…

My key for this evening’s fancies lies in a note I received not long back – a card from a lady dear to me, scribed in her pretty neat hand-writing with a £20 note taped inside.

Enclosed was a little booklet – a museum guide as it turns out. But it didn’t read like a museum guide. More like a cross between stylish pithy witticisms and a (particularly saucy) history channel episode on pagan erotica. I was utterly intrigued… Plus, I’d just had my hair done (vanity creeping in here… not that I was on the hunt for attracting any horny pagans, but still),

So off I trotted dressed as appropriately as possible to visit such a museum with the name of The Last Tuesday Society – Museum of Curiosities.

Here we are:

The Last Tuesday Society / Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities
11 Mare St, London E8 4RP

It is open → Wednesday – Sunday 12 pm -10:30 pm. Admission is £6 – with a cup of tea on request (very important).

Let’s take a look at a few of the objects and fascinating finds on display, shall we? ↑ All collected by the proprietor of the museum himself – Victor Wynd. But do you want to know what I really love about this museum?

Its ethos:

The society is dedicated to subverting life, the universe and everything bored of the life and world it sees around it. [It] seeks to create a new world filled with beauty, wonder and the imagination…

The society is aiming to become a non-profit with full charitable status – until that time it is run as a benign dictatorship by the Chancellor Viktor Wynd. 

Image credit: Viktor Wynd by Rosey Trickett

Viktor Wynd himself has led a life so tantalisingly atmospheric that it seems to both elude, entice and encourage biographical investigation all at once.

Described as a ‘pataphysicist,* writer, curator, collector, dealer, dilettante, naturalist and antiquarian’ and artist working in the field of Relational Aesthetics, Wynd counts the most intriguing participative installations and exhibitions under his belt.

* I didn’t get it either: “Pataphysics is a difficult-to-define literary trope invented by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907). One attempt at a definition might be to say that ‘pataphysics is a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions.” So there we go.
Image credit: Oskar Proctor

One such audience evening was entitled “Loss; an evening of Exquisite Misery” where guests were invited to “dress in Decaying Beauty, chop onions and cry”.

Another such event is Wyndstock – The Country House Party. This is Viktor Wynd’s 21st-century reinvention of the masquerade ball which he threw in gay abandon for several years at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

You can also watch a National Geographic documentary on ‘A Day In The Life of Viktor Wynd’ here and it gives you some great shots of the museum too.

So- where was I going with this? The whole point here is A) I was impressed with the museum and with the ethos behind it. But what I was also impressed with was a characteristically libertarian attitude towards curation, which often falls victim to restrictions from council- or government-funded projects. It was refreshing.

And the joy of it? The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. Avec le bar up top.

Try the cocktails which come with ‘scorpion-flayed-on-a-stick’ as a garnish. That will really have your taste buds going.

Or perhaps you could indulge in some pretty twisted voyeurism as we did – watching a sea anemone eat its way through a rather large crab that had fatally wandered into its clutches in the giant tropical fish tank on the wall. Isn’t Mother Nature beautiful?

Yup – the upstairs of this museum is a fully-stocked cocktail bar of the weird and wonderful which you can enjoy whilst perusing the objects and various stuffed animal heads on display…

Or perhaps the ones in the cabinet downstairs ↓

This is a gold-plated hippopotamus skull that once belonged to Pablo Escobar – a Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist so ‘successful’ and wealthy that he has been dubbed “The King of Cocaine”, supplying an est. 80% of U.S. imported cocaine in the early 1990s. His income totalled $21.9 billion a year – the wealthiest criminal in history and one of the richest men in the world.

Pablo Escobar in 1977 – his mug shot for Medellin Control Agency

And what does a man this rich need?

Well, his very own island of course!

Now in ruins, the island, called Normans Cay, lay about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of the Florida coast.

It contained: a zoo, a sculpture garden, a lake and private bullring.

And in that zoo?

Hippos.

In the late 1980s when Pablo’s wealth was coming into its height, he decided to build himself a zoo (which was open to the public – even schoolchildren) and imported 4 hippos from Africa in a shipping liner bound for Florida – 3 females and 1 male. But one of them didn’t make the traumatic journey and died by the time it got to the island.

Strangely distraught (for a drug lord), Pablo ordered that its skull be plated in gold in reverence to the hippo. It was sold at auction by the Colombian government for a reported $12,000 (£8,500). Now – here’s the thing – like several other items I encountered in the museum (such as Russell Brand’s pubes…but we’ll get to that later) this story is so good and so plausible that one wonders whether it could ever have been fabricated…

P.S. Just in case you were wondering – the other hippos remained after Pablo was killed in a shootout in 1993, his ranch Hacienda Napoles confiscated and sold, and the rest of his island was left to ruin. In fact, they are the only survivors of this villainous island reign – alive and well – and still found as the foreign (and somewhat unwelcome) inhabitants of this environment, which was perfect for them around the coast of southeast Florida. In fact, they have made themselves so at home (and multiplied to 50 or 60 in number!) that they have become a bit of a problem to the surrounding community.

But anyway, back to the Museum – that’s not all that’s on display from the weird and wonderful…

My favourite items are the books. The book above is categorised under ‘American and Canadian Fiction’ and was written between 1945-1999 – I googled. I absolutely love vintage books from the 50s / 60s. It sends me on a second-hand book stalking frenzy to see if I can find purchasable copies. For most of these… I couldn’t, BUT I did find their authors and publication dates, so at least I know they are out there somewhere…

Second on my list of favourites → the small cases dotted around the museum (see how many you can spot!) with little notices and letters attached to them from the ‘donors’ which read things like: ‘Russell Brand’s pubes’, apparently donated by a very thorough patron from a shaving salon in North London, who collected the pubes off the floor when Brand had finished his appointment and sent them to the museum for ‘safe-keeping’… how thoughtful.

↑Among other coveted items – decorated and inscribed shoes and handbags by:

So there we go. One of my now well-loved and most-admired spots in London.

Hope you enjoy!

In Love&Light FS XOX

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