Is it Groundhog Day? It seems like just yesterday that, back in 2008, Dr Gunther von Hagens brought his controversial Body Worlds travelling display to this country. The exhibition, which showcases the preserved dissected bodies of hundreds of donors, now has a permanent home here.
The flayed corpses will find their final home at Piccadilly Circus in what was the vastly overpriced Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, so on that count at least it’s an improvement. But there will no doubt remain a cloud of doubt over whether this is an educational and worthy endeavour, or the worst type of voyeurism possible.
It’s a debate that von Hagens seems keen to stoke. Famed for his fedora (a nod to the the hat worn in Dutch Old Master painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt) and his passion for bringing the science of anatomy to the masses, the doctor who invented the innovative process to plastinate internal organs has always been up-front about his work and this final resting place gives him a platform to continue the dialogue. Even the location itself will cause comment, close to centres of British art and galleries like the National Gallery, academic institutions like the Royal Academy plus, of course, all the entertainment of Shaftesbury Avenue and Leicester Square, questions remain about the status of Body Worlds.
Questions do not remain over the quality of the exhibition itself, which shows the carefully preserved bodies, often arranged in lifelike poses. But perhaps the real puzzle will be: would you actually like to go and see this?
Bodyworlds opens on Saturday 6th October, at London Pavilion, 1 Piccadilly Circus, W1J 0DA