Spectacular Bodies

The art and science of the human body from Leonardo
to now

Marina Wallace and Martin Kemp

ISBN: 1 8533 214 8 (pbk) (Hayward Gallery Publishing edition)
ISBN: 0 520 22792 1 (pbk) (University of California Press edition)


Investigating the wonders of the human face and body, Spectacular Bodies: The art and science of the human body from Leonardo to Now comprises a breathtaking array of treasures from the worlds of art and science. Works of art spanning five centruies are considered in an unexpected context, alongside ancient medical books and instruments, and detailed life-size anatomical wax models. Artworks include anatomical drawings by Leonaro, Michaelangeo, Durer and Stubbs; a unique group of 17th and 18th century portraits of Dutch surgeons at work; and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Gericault, Courbet, Degas and Frith.

Photography, sculpture, video and installations by eight contemporary artists, including Christine Borland, Tony Oursler, mark Quinn and Bill Viola, provide new perspectives on the subject. Focusing on a variety of issues raised by historical material, the contemporary works provide alternative ways of thinking about our relationship with science and medicine.

Lavishly illustrated with essays by Martin Kemp, Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University and curator of the Hayward Gallery’s much acclaimed Leonardo exhibition of 1989, and Prof. Marina Wallace, of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Spectacular Bodies reveals a new way of seeing ourselves

Jointly published by the Hayward Gallery and the University of California Press on the occasion of the exhibition Spectacular Bodies, organsied by The Hayward Gallery London 19 October 2000
– 14 January 2001


Select reviews

Alternately eloquent and visceral, this engaging catalog is a testament to human curiosity. Curators skillfully interweave five centuries of history, science, and art…
Minneapolis Star Tribune

A book that might forever change how you look at your body…Every page screams, ‘Look at me.’
Flaunt Magazine

A cornucopia of anatomical models, drawings, waxworks, and viscera that gives the exhortation ‘Know Thyself!’ new resonance. It gets under your skin
Brill’s Content

Illustrates vividly the continuing evolution of our understanding—literal and aesthetic—of the flesh.
Publishers Weekly

Alternately eloquent and visceral, this engaging 315-object exhibition catalog of anatomical drawings, wax models, medical charts, instruments, prints, photos, video stills, and even preserved body parts is a testament to human curiosity. Curators Kemp (history of art, Oxford) and Wallace (art, Central St. Martin’s Coll. of Art & Design) skillfully interweave five centuries of history, science, and art, presenting such topics as dissection rituals, physiognomy, phrenology, the diagnosis of mental illnesses, and today’s often controversial artistic body images. Copublished by London’s Hayward Gallery, which houses the eponymous exhibition, the book is detailed and scholarly; the selection and presentation are consistently judicious and imaginative. The final section, ‘New Eyes,’ presents and critiques works by eight contemporary artists, including Christine Borland, Marc Quinn, and Bill Viola. Highly recommended for academic, medical, and science libraries.
Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

With its pickled foetuses, anatomical models, flayed figures and gurning heads, Spectacular Bodies is a compelling exhibition tackling the most fascinating subject of all: us.
Adrian Searle, The Guardian, 2000