Thursday, April 11, 2019

Houdini and Margery rarities at the Wellcome Collection

Today sees the opening of Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic at the Wellcome Collection in London. The exhibition includes some spectacular Houdini and Margery rarities, such as the famous bell box, Margery's seance chairs, and a loving cup given to Margery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (seen right).

What can magic and conjuring tell us about the human mind? Our new exhibition brings together the worlds of psychology and entertainment in search of the truth about deception. 
Explore how our biases affect our perception and whether our senses can be hacked. Discover spirit photography, magic props and psychology experiments to see how magic works on – and in – the mind of the spectator.
Artefacts on display from the world of magic include the head of the gorilla costume worn by Derren Brown, Harry Houdini’s ‘Bell Box’, Tommy Cooper’s fez, and Paul Daniels’s sawing-in-half box. 
An accompanying live performance programme explores what magic reveals about the nature of perception and how psychologists have used conjuring to understand the appeal of the ‘supernatural’.

The Margery items come from the private Libbet Crandon de Malamud Collection and Margery's great granddaughter Anna Thurlow, who's in London for the opening. She tells us:

"The Wellcome Trust show was fantastic. Really beautifully curated - it celebrated the artistry of magic, the joy of allowing oneself to be willingly deceived but also encouraged critical thinking. Somehow they avoided all the pastiche and common conventions in achieving that goal, so very fresh and engaging."

Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic runs through September 15, 2019. Galleries are open Tuesday–Sunday. Admission is free. Visit the Wellcome Collection website for more details.


1 comment:

  1. The comment you included from Anna about how the show celebrates "the joy of allowing oneself to be willingly deceived but also encourages critical thinking" is very interesting, not just in the context of magic but in the context of spiritualism, which tends to be seen in very black and white terms.