PREVIEW: Surreal Science: Loudon Collection with Salvatore Arancio, Whitechapel Gallery

The Whitechapel Gallery will present crafted objects from the Loudon Collection, selected and animated by visual artist Salvatore Arancio. 

Eight models of mushrooms, late 19th century, each between 13-20 x 10-15 x 9-12 cm, France. Image Courtesy George Loudon Collection, Photograph by Rosamond Purcell. 

On display from the 24th August, this exhibition will focus on collector George Loudon and his fascination with scientific breakthroughs from the Enlightenment to the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the gallery inviting Italian-born artist Salvatore Arancio to select and respond to Loudon’s collection.

Objects which will be on display will include a glass model of a Portugese man o’war jellyfish (Germany, 19th century), a boxed collection of seashells (India, 19th century), magic lantern slides (France, 19th century) depict extinct animals whilst plaster anatomical models include a deconstructed male torso (France or Germany, 19th century) and two medical heads (Ireland, 19th century). They are shown alongside Japanese botanical illustrations (c.1878) and coral specimens (Europe, 19th century). The materials used include lost-wax casts, minerals, velvet, ivory and glass.

Salvatore Arancio’s work will also be displayed, revealing how the Loudon’s collection of objects work well alongside Arancio’s work. New and unexpected narratives will be  created in an original installation that reflects both the extraordinary focus of the collection and the selector’s own practice.

The artist’s work on display as part of the exhibition will include:  The Fluorescent Host (2018)  a 2m high ceramic sculpture which stands in the gallery like a timeless monolith. It plays with the scale of a small, ancient American obsidian hand axe (c. 6000 BC). Inspired by a book in the collection called Soul Shapes by Alice Murray Smith (1890), which imagines that souls can be categorised by colour and shape, a new film work Dedicated to the Blue Soul (2018) will combine narration from the text with found educational footage. Sounds from The Focus Group, a project by experimental electronic musician and graphic designer Julian House, will fill the space. They function as a soundtrack to Arancio’s new film piece Reactions in Plants and Animals (2018).

The aim of the exhibition is to showcase the Loudon collection in a new light, and reveals the visual power of both the objects and Arancio’s new work.

Surreal Science: Loudon Collection with Salvatore Arancio will be on display at the Whitechapel Gallery from the 24th August until the 6th January 2019. For more information visit:


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