Memento Mori – The Art of Death


COURTESY OF AUSTIN KRIEGER The exhibit, with its array of stunning art, holds a variety of pieces themed on death.


Kenosha Public Museum is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to the reflection and portrayal of death from artists spanning centuries ago to present day.  “Memento Mori-The Art of Death” will hold special exhibits for the collection on Feb. 5, 12, and 9 between the hours of 10a.m. and 5p.m. The exhibit is chance to view dozens of artists from multiple eras and their works surrounding our mortality.

The artist

The Art of Death is a masterpiece collection by Richard Harris, a Queens College graduate in economics with a strong minor in art history. Harris’s first collection, a massive assortment of antique illustrated books, was formed while in Europe, searching for antique prints for his business. Following the sale of his collection of antique books and prints, Harris started to collect more pieces from around the world which ended up being themed in death and mortality.

Harris’s collections

Harris’s collection, The Art of Death, eventually grew to a size of 1500 objects, all related to death and mortality. These pieces were consorted to a smaller group of around 50 pieces to be displayed in venues in the U.S. and around the world. This smaller collection of masterpieces was titled “Memento Mori”, Latin for “Remember Death”.

The Art of Death has toured throughout the continental U.S. and was also present at the Wellcome exhibition in London. Harris’s collection grasps our curiosity with our own mortality and what comes after death through works of art ranging from before Christ to contemporary works. Some of the oldest pieces are skull carvings made from jade originating in China around 2000 BCE.

Exploring death around the world

An overwhelming theme of the exhibit is mankind’s examination of what it means to die and what becomes of our consciousness. These questions are laid out in The Art of Death and expressed through the various mediums used by artists to ask these questions. This includes steel, bronze and silver statues, which are painted or decorated in different ways.

Furthermore, some of the most common mediums are paintings, including oil, pastel, watercolor, etchings, and more; these paintings are placed on a few different platforms from modern canvas to ancient spun silk from 14th century Japan.

Many of the pieces shown in the exhibit come from every corner of the map, including China, Tibet, Germany, France, South Africa, both North and South America and many more. This sheer vastness of the pieces origins shows human interest in our own mortality and afterlife.

This collection truly exemplifies and examines humans‘ desire for answers to some of the most troubling questions. Through art,  people work to communicate and answer the questions of life, death, and what comes after, questions that have perplexed the human mind and will for years to come.

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