Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Wonders works on the level of a glorious picture book littered with fascinating glimpses into this lonely eccentric’s extraordinary lifestyle. The book, although a relentless visual feast, gives a real insight into the sufferings of an eternal aesthete and the sickness of collecting, a seemingly interminable addiction (I would perhaps propose a modest stamp album as methadone).
When I asked Wynd if he might ever stop collecting, he responded that he is a “contented invalid – it is my sickness, I enjoy it, death will end it, nothing else. If I’m poor I’ll collect stones and shells I find on the beach, if I’m rich houses and paintings. The need to acquire and possess will never go away. But I am nothing if not inconsistent, and who knows one day I may say enough is enough, but I doubt it”.
For Wynd, collecting is the ultimate means to distract from the mundane reality of the irksome everyday. He seems to have this art perfected. He’s really not a character you can imagine sifting through insurance policies or popping down to the Co-op for his Marybelle. I questioned what it was about life exactly that gave him the need to use his collection as a barrier, to which he answered, “I don’t know where to start and if I started where I’d stop…I’ve never understood life, I’ve always seemed like a stranger looking in, I’ve never had a purpose or a reason, my mind is always working, my eyes are always busy, I like to surround myself with beauty and narratives”.
Wynd’s zeal for the historical and unusual flourished after a childhood of exploration in Paris and then reading History at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. This then led to a life of collecting, culminating in his Hackney museum/shop, Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors. Cabinet of Wonders includes a deliciously personal insight into the collector’s private Hackney home, ‘Fantasy Wyndworld’, his shop, and the inspirational and outrageous houses of his friends and clients.
There are times when our bohemian author seems an absolute pompous so and so, as he deigns to invite us, ‘Gentle reader’ into the bizarre but fantastic world of Wynd. With a master-maid relationship scarily reminiscent of Holmes and Hudson and a collection worth more than a pretty penny, the reader conjures an image of a slightly jaded upper middle class bloke with more money than sense and lavish tendencies, all sprinkled with a hint of the undeserving. For example, in a plastic bag somewhere on the floor of his chaotic study lie the feathers of eight different breeds of extinct bird, which he was once dying to own but admittedly now doesn’t care about. An ornithologist’s wet dream is just Wynd’s discarded plastic bag which he bought because he could. I asked him if he ever felt a lack of self-entitlement to such objects: “I’m an anarch in a Jungerian sense, I have no answers for political problems, and if I shouldn’t have it who should? I’m not a huge fan of museums that store 99% of their objects out of the public eye – languishing in museum captivity – besides, my collection is open to the world both in my museum and in frequent loans to institutions like the Tate Gallery, Kelvingrove & others abroad”.
In spite of this, in today’s society Wynd is a figure that should be truly cherished. Few contain that same exciting train of thought and tendency towards the irregular, blissfully ignorant of fashions and not giving a flying fart about opinions and the media (Wynd absolutely refuses to own a television and if you do he urges you to destroy it as quickly as possible).
When opening his first public museum/shop, Viktor Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors, with the endearingly simple business plan built on, ‘1. Try not to lose too much money’, Wynd became overwhelmed by the success of it and was soon harbouring a collection almost too astonishing to handle, such were the funds and sponsorships. Soon, his modest Hackney premises enshrined the likes of Napoleon’s death mask and the mummified erect willy of a hanged man that once belonged to Oscar Wilde.
The shop today holds such marvels as the abandoned condoms and Viagra left by the Stones in a hotel room, alongside the signed and dated testimony of the cleaner swearing to their authenticity. The collection exemplifies diversity, as shrunken heads, extensive amounts of taxidermy and every skeleton under the sun mingle among the likes of Wynd’s own artwork and a jar containing the faeces of Wino (may she rest in peace) which is going for a modest fiver a sniff or 120 quid for the whole lot.
However, there are times when Wynd’s arcane menagerie borders on the downright perverse, no matter how bohemian or eccentric you think yourself to be. In the boot of his Jag XK8 in amongst the Hunters and dirtied plaids lies the fully intact skeleton of an 18th century bastard child with its attached death certificate on a pedestal. Is this even legal?
The book itself is perfect: size, weight, smell, gorgeous design, the full monty, and whether through shock, amusement or disgust it refuses to be parted from your hands.
Having read this I just want to crawl into Wynd’s mind and have a good rummage; the same can be said for his wardrobe and covetous array of cowboy boots – obviously I tried my luck and asked for a pair to which I got the reply, “I adore cowboy boots, my favourites I bought in New York in the 1990s – they’re made of crocodile tails, for the first couple of years in order to take them off my room mate and I would spend over an hour yanking and pulling.
“But to be beautiful one has to suffer. I’ve got an old pair where the heels have fallen off and I’m tempted to give them to you, but they have too many memories, too much a part of me”. Close. So close.
Wynd says he wants to take his audience (whether that be of his museum, his personal collection or of his book) on a journey, as he leads them up and down the garden path whilst whispering in their ears. Well, hats off. His whispers have only encouraged my already too prominent tendencies to invest in the weird and wonderful. If only the SLC catered for such indulgence.