The Museum House of Death (review): Charlie Tuesday Gates kills it

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The London taxidermy art and fashion queen who can pack a crowd and keep them laughing.

Update (5 June 2014): After a hugely successful opening night, Gates has announced two encore performances: 14 June at 2:00 PM and 21 June (closing night) at 2:00 PM.

There may not be a more perfect venue to showcase all things weird and wonderful than The Vaults at Waterloo. But filling up on the scent of wall paints and spray can emissions by graffiti artists in The Tunnel is still by no means an indicator of what lies within The Vaults: taxidermied artworks, avant-garde fashion pieces and performances to die for.

As you make your way through the red-lit foyer, there is a dim room to the right filled with Charlie Tuesday Gates‘ dark-humoured artwork, fashion pieces from her dazzlingly ‘Mind Like Magpie‘ range and illustrations by Kerry Eggleton (aka Mashka) that remind me of  the ‘Second Skins’ series by Madrid-based photographer, Miguel Vallinas Prieto.

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In a sea of taxidermy artists, you will find those who are taking the safe route with the lone baby chick in a glass dome while others go off the deep end with hybrid animal artworks that have a dash of morbid to them. So where does Gates stand? She’s in a category of her own. On opening night (22 May 2014), Gates proves herself as an artist at the forefront of the London taxidermy scene. And since taxidermy art is -dare I say- ‘trendy’ at the moment, that’s saying something. She is far from ‘safe’. And although some may think pieces like ‘Pussy Cat’ -a skinned and framed taxidermied cat with a ‘found vagina’- walk along the lines of ‘morbid’, you might feel differently after seeing her performance art.

In the adjacent tunnel, spotlights shine on Gates’ menagerie: a toy horse covered in animal skin, a luminous skull-bearing birdcage which boasts the most brilliant shadows you may ever see and candle-lit altar-esque displays that fortunately reek of incense to mask the dead animal stench. In this dim space, the 28-year-old artist introduces us to her upcoming musical ‘SING FOR YOUR LIFE!’, with teaser performances from her puppet characters: a fox, badger and ‘man’s best friend’, a French Bulldog, who are each competing in a singing competition for the chance to live again. As Gates puts it, ‘SING FOR YOUR LIFE!’ is like a cross between ‘The X Factor’ and ‘Pet Rescue’. But the semi circle stage piped with flashing red lights, provide an intimate setting too small for this bursting crowd.

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The 28-year-old vegan artist, fashion accessory designer and D.I.Y. taxidermy pioneer shows us yet another talent that she has up her sleeves: she can sing. East London-based Gates shows off her vocal range with her quintessentially tongue in cheek sense of humour. With help from a pianist and her handy puppeteer working the animals’ legs, it soon becomes clear that the Bulldog is unanimously a crowd favourite, gaining the whole-hearted seal of sing along approval.

It might sound bizarre for taxidermy to be having such a comeback that it’s inspiring its own musical. But the displays and performances at The Museum House of Death make it clear why this is more than just a passing fad. Gates’ art, designs, vocals, characters and -above all else- sense of humour are infectious. And this is why she is in a category of her own. She conveys something that can be hard to find nowadays: charisma. And from all the applause and constant laughter from this growing crowd, I’m not alone.

The Museum House of Death will be running Gates’ exhibit of artworks and accessories (which are available for purchase) from 22 May – 21 June 2014 at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8SW, U.K.

The venue is open for viewings Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM.

Entry is free (also on performance nights).

Update (5 June 2014): After a hugely successful opening night, Gates has announced two encore performances: 14 June at 2:00 PM and 21 June (closing night) at 2:00 PM. 

*All of Gates’ animals are sourced ethically and are never killed for the purposes of her work.

For more on Charlie Tuesday Gates’ art and fashion, check out her:

Websites: Charlie Tuesday Gates / Mind Like Magpie

Facebook: Charlie Tuesday Gates / Mind Like Magpie

Twitter: @GoodnessGates / @MindLikeMagpie

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