‘It’s what they would have wanted’ is surely a cliché when it comes to posthumous arrangements of any kind but when the deceased is famous, plans to memorialise them become fraught with questions of taste and appropriateness. Although a bust constructed out of taxidermied dead animals, a shoe and a lipstick case might not be everyone’s first choice for their dearly departed, we feel sure that Isabella Blow would feel at home with her sculpture portrait "The Head of Isabella Blow, 2002" by artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster as her memorial – not least because she commissioned it herself.
Back in 2002, when the Design Museum in London presented the exhibition "When Phillip met Isabella", Blow’s husband Detmar was managing a modern art gallery in East London; the star attraction of which was the duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster. Their modus operandi was to construct ‘rubbish sculptures', which looked like great messy heaps, but when illuminated, cast a shadow onto the wall behind – in an eerily accurate silhouette portrait. As part of the retrospective, Isabella commissioned the piece to immortalise her ongoing partnership with milliner Treacy in a fine art context. The lipstick and the shoe are her own personal items.
Just like her most famous protégé, Alexander McQueen, Isabella took delight in the world of the macabre, and a piece like this consisting of a rattlesnake, a rat, a raven, and six magpies was exactly to her taste. It is now been donated/bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery, so you can easily go and see it for yourselves.
- Naomi Attwood