A London adventure | Baroness Elsa at Mimosa House

baroness Elsa cathedral

If you’ve heard of Baroness Elsa then you’re probably thinking “What a fricking legend” and if you haven’t, well, let me tell you, you’re in for a treat.

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Speaking of treats, the reason why I was in London in the first place – 3 years after buying the tickets, the Pet Shop Boys tour finally came around.

Just epic. Kind of worth waiting for, although I would very much prefer not to have had to wait. Thanks for nothing, Great Unpleasantness.

Next morning I headed to the World of Stonehenge exhibition at the British Museum. I won’t say too much about it because it’s been widely written about elsewhere, but just to warn you that it gets very busy, even on a Monday. Oh, and they missed a trick not mentioning the fact that this was originally discovered in a Kwik Save car park in Mold.

And after all that, it was time to meet the Baroness

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was a performance artist and poet who mostly worked in New York in the early 20th century. She wore postage stamps for make up, and tin cans and spoons for clothes. A birdcage hung round her neck (complete with live canary). Her hats could be anything from a cake to a handful of fruit and veg. 

Bear in mind that she was doing all this around the time of the First World War. You can see why people call her the first punk. The ‘Don’t give a fuck’-ness energy was very strong with Elsa.

Elsa is also widely thought to be the real artist behind Marcel Duchamp’s urinal Fountain, one of the most famous artworks in the world.

Baroness Elsa exhibition Mimosa House
A man taking credit for the work of a woman? Who’da thunk it?

There’s a very good biography by Irene Gammel if you want to find out more.

Elsa was so overlooked in her lifetime (and for about 100 years since) but now it seems the world is catching up to her.

The Baroness – Mimosa House

The challenge for this exhibition at London’s Mimosa House is that very little of Baroness Elsa’s work survives. They’ve managed to gather some of her remaining work, and this is the first time it’s been seen in the UK.

The exhibition has been broadened out into a group show including some of Elsa’s artistic descendants. Some are brand new works inspired by the Baroness, whilst others are existing pieces that fit well with her groove. True to her spirit, it’s full of mischief and the unexpected.

We’re not in the British Museum now

‘Cathedral’ by Baroness Elsa (1918)

‘Cathedral’ by Linda Stupart (2022)

This is a really fascinating exhibition and worth taking your time over to absorb the details. Approach with an open mind and heart because, like its subject, it’s quite the wild ride.

Exhibition details

The Baroness is at Mimosa House, 47 Theobalds Road, London, from now until 17th September ’22. It’s open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 12 to 6pm, entrance is free.

The World of Stonehenge is at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London from now until 17 July 22, tickets £20.

The Pet Shop Boys are still on tour, at last.