The beasts within: artists tap into their wild sides for a roaring show

'Animality: A Fairy Story
'Animality: A Fairy Story by Jens Hoffman' brings bark as well as bite to Marian Goodman Gallery in London
(Image credit: press)

Rarely before have we seen such a long and varied list of contributors, as we do in Marian Goodman Gallery's group show 'Animality'. The 'cast of creatures' ranges from dogs, camels, fish to octopi, and charts a history from George Orwell to Gabriel Orozco by way of Marcel Broodthaers. Curator Jens Hoffmann, never one to turn down a challenge, has outdone himself with this wild, two-floor adventure.

Subtitled 'A Fairytale by Jens Hoffmann', the exhibition transforms Marian Goodman's bright white space into a colourful – and noisy – zoo. The packed press preview certainly helped with the latter. Culture vultures circled and swooped to their hearts content. Though it must be said, the space feels less like a caged, organised zoo, and more like jungle – where weird and wonderful creatures roam free, decontexualised, to brilliant effect.


'Octopus' by Carsten Höller, 2014.

(Image credit: Mike Bruce)

Carsten Höller's Octopus (above) almost obstructs the doorway to the darkened room in featuring Joao Maria Gusmao and Pedro Paiva's video installation. Across the floor, a slug is famously oggled by a small boy in Elmgreen & Dragset's Dawn, Fig. 2 (2016). Above the staircase, Yinka Shonibare's tight-rope walking Calf Boy balances precariously overhead.

It sounds chaotic, but thanks to Hoffmann's sensitivity and coherent vision, it somehow ties together without trouble. The curator left his post as deputy director at New York's Jewish Museum in March with the intention of working with exhibitions in a more hands-on way. Here, he seems to let loose his pent-up creativity. 'Jens is not afraid to think big and has no shortage of creative ideas,' explains Courtney Plummer, director of Marian Goodman Gallery. 'He is very conscientious about contextualising the work and making sure there are layers of content and perspectives from which to consider.'

'Silverback self portrait with prominent belly,

'Silverback self portrait with prominent belly, trying to remember how to use my opposable thumb in indelible, diverse and kinky ways' by Abraham Cruzvillegas, 2016; and 'Camel (Albino) Contemporary Needle (Large)' by John Baldessari, 2013

(Image credit: Abraham Cruzvillegas)

Upstairs, John Baldessari's imposing albino camel (above) deservedly takes centre stage. It remains humorously surprising, no matter how many times you've seen it in the white-bone flesh. Abraham Cruzvillegas' glossy ink and acrylic paintings, created earlier this year, are another marked highlight. Touching upon Hoffmann's more serious theme of animals edging into extinction, Cruzvillegas paints a series of silverback gorillas, each ever more gently than the last, fading into obscurity, so the final portrait is difficult to make out.

Plummer tells us that this exhibition has taken about a year to pull together. It's not surprising – with over 70 works to peruse 'Animality' is an overwhelming feat, aided by the range of artistic mediums on display (photography, film, sculpture, historical artefact, painting, installation). This adds to the sheer, confusing joy of it. With rules being continuously rewritten in the human political realm of late, it seems apt that Hoffman rewrites the rules of the animal kingdom too, where peacocks perform happily aside keen-eyed tigers, and octopi line the floors, ready to trip ill-prepared humans up.

Bouche Walker

Bouche Walker (Reggie's Dog) by Peter Hujar, 1981

(Image credit: Peter Hujar)

Elmgreen & Dragset

Dawn, Fig. 2 by Elmgreen & Dragset, 2016.

(Image credit: The artists)

Goat in Purple

Goat in Purple Bag by Gabriel Orozco, 2016.

(Image credit: Gabriel Orozco)

70 artists

There are over 70 artists on display in the group exhibition

(Image credit: press)

Running Thunder

Running Thunder by Steve Mc Queen, 2007

(Image credit: Steve Mc Queen)

Mothers (XVI)

The Most Beautiful of All Mothers (XVI) by Adrián Villar, 2015.

(Image credit: Adrián Villar)

The staged animal

The staged animal kingdom is a satire on real life events

(Image credit: press)

William Wegman

Valley, by William Wegman, 1998.

(Image credit: William Wegman)

Roni Horn

Untitled, No. 15 by Roni Horn, 2007. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

(Image credit: The artist and Hauser & Wirth)

’Animality’ is on view until 17 December. For more information, visit the Marian Goodman Gallery website


Marian Goodman Gallery
5-8 Lower John St
London W1F 9DY


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.