Artful doggie: the first contemporary art show for dogs

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

 This dog's dream may have come true in Drumstick Park (All photographs: Micha Schwing)
This dog’s dream may have come true in Drumstick Park (All photographs: Micha Schwing)

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.

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 negotiating the ball pit 
Wunderdog co-editor Pippa negotiating the ball pit

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. “Dogs’ area of the brain that processes smell is bigger than humans’ 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

Note to visitors: The exhibition is still on today until 4pm. It is free and, although it is booked up, it does allow a number of walk-ins, depending on how busy it is. Wunderdog went to the lovely French café Comptoir Gourmand on Druid Street afterwards for the most delicious pastry, excellent coffee and dog-friendly vibe. No art trip is complete without a treat at the end. 

 The car simulator, controversially with the half-blind dog in the front 
The car simulator, controversially with the half-blind dog in the front
 The smelly wind machine by the car
The smelly wind machine by the car
Wunderdog co-editor Nina in a career highlight, discussing ham in a contemporary art exhibition with two dogs

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