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Artful doggie: the first contemporary art show for dogs takes place in London

Artworks created specifically for dogs go on show to encourage more playtime

It was billed as the first-ever contemporary art exhibition for dogs, and this little show in London was certainly novel. It featured artworks in the colour spectrum visible to dogs, a screen animation of a flying frisbee, and interactive installations such as a giant ball pit (in the shape of a food bowl) and a car simulator with a fan diffusing dog-favourite scents such as raw meat and old shoes. There were also three giant hams on plinths, although sadly for the dogs, no gift shop to take home some of that delicious art.

Robert Nicol’s work has a very loyal fan

The show was curated by artist Dominic Wilcox, who also created the 10ft dog bowl and the car installation, and was commissioned by insurance company More Than as part of its #playmore campaign. The company wants to ensure dogs get “plenty of physical and mental stimulation” to stay healthy, and while this may have been a PR exercise, it was certainly an admirable way to entertain dogs and educate owners along the way.

Case in point was the grey-yellow-blue painting Drumstick Park by Robert Nicol. A clear-lined park scene with drumsticks as trees had one canine visitor extremely interested during Wunderdog’s time at the exhibition. Wilcox’s giant food bowl called Dinnertime Dreams, filled with 1,000 soft balls in the colour of kibble, was another favourite among the younger dogs. A water fountain, also by Wilcox, was surprisingly not popular, possibly because the water springing out of four points formed a high arch, and Wunderdog co-editor Pippa is one of many dogs who prefers to “dominate” water in a puddle or sea rather than have it rain on her.

Wunderdog co-editor Pippa navigates the ball pit
Wunderdog co-editor Nina in a career highlight, discussing parma ham with dogs

The vet supervising the exhibition, Robert White-Adams, explained this was a testing ground to see what dogs respond to and was quick to point out that dogs can take in substantially more sensory information than us. “A dog’s area of the brain that processes smell is bigger than a human’s brain area to process sight,” he said, adding the dogs at the exhibition would also be taking in smells in the room from the previous days, something that was lost on sight-relying humans.

But in a sign that dogs will be dogs, the “artwork” that attracted the most off-leash visitors were the hams. Two hours after the show opened, one plinth already showed paw marks of an artful doggie. Still, Wunderdog applauds the originality and dedication of the exhibition. NM

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