South Bank Exhibition 2012

Royal Festival Hall

'Boxed: Fabulous Coffins'
20.01.2012 - 29.01.2012

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This exhibition of replica bespoke 'Crazy Coffins' comes only a few months after a brave recovery following a major fire at Vic Fearn & Company Ltd which destroyed part of their factory and many of their coffins.

The company has existed for 160 years but began creating the unusual coffins it became famous for in 1990. Given the nickname 'Crazy Coffins' by the Sun newspaper, the company gained notoriety after agreeing to create a coffin in the shape of an aeroplane fuselage, which led to further bespoke coffin requests by other customers and their reputation for unusual designs has spread throughout the world.

'I don't think it's macabre. Most of the time it's people saying 'This is me, this is my life and I want to celebrate it.''
David Crampton, Director, Vic Fearn & Company Ltd ('Crazy Coffins')

Coffins take on average two weeks to build and cost anything from £800 to £5000. Many are ordered by the living, many years in advance of their deaths. others are ordered by bereaved families for loved ones, and Vic Fearn must in both scenarios approach the business transaction with the sensitivity and skill of someone commissioned to paint a self portrait.

Yet unlike the Paa joe workshop in Ghana, the 30 employees of Crazy Coffins do not see themselves as artists:
'The only artists among us are the clients themselves. Each one of them has a vision off how a funeral should be. Each is his or her own theatre director. We ourselves play a subordinate part, just as, in the conventional theatre, the carpenters do, who make up the sets.'

Photos 1 - 20 by Peter Camilleri
Photos 21 - 36 by John Voce
South bank Centre introduction