The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Review: Cabinets of Curiosity at Sandbar

Michael Mayhew exhibits his collection of ‘wonder art’ for the punters of Sandbar


How do we look at art in pubs? The pub is a great place to talk freely, to tell stories and to have arguments, but does art have any place within this dialogue, or is it just seen as the stuff on the walls for us to ignore? Does it join in on the conversation or is it purely decorative?

Some pubs have a couple of pictures dotted about, perhaps brass things hanging off the ceiling, and maybe a few framed photographs, but they almost always have significance to the geography and history of the building and its surroundings. Other pubs choose to have changing exhibitions from local artists, and Sandbar, just off Oxford Road on Grosvenor Street, does a bit of both.

Mayhew’s exhibition, at first glance, fits right in to the decor of the pub; there are odd curios all over the place in Sandbar, from reclaimed wood for benches to old letterpress stamps installed in the tables; there’s certainly a generous amount of visual stimuli. On closer inspection, there are some very odd and very extraordinary objects to be seen within these glass cabinets either side of the fireplace. Everything from Michael Jackson’s sperm to a cast of Einstein’s brain is on show, and you can even buy a cast of Marilyn Monroe’s vagina for only £450. What a bargain.

One of the more visually striking pieces, a cast of a face, is an item that Mayhew claims, in a fascinating story, to have been found in the caves of Afghanistan: Saved from destruction during the Russian invasion of 1979, it was bought in a flea market in Siberia before being brought to England in 2001. In his opening essay, Mayhew discusses the role of storytelling in his work and the confusing ambiguity that can be found within our differentiation of fact and fiction.

The idea that art or museum artefacts, whether genuine or not, can inspire myths and stories simply emphasises what is special about the specific type of conversations that can be found in the pub. Go to Sandbar and look at Michael Mayhew’s stories for yourself, and decide which are fact and which are fantasy.

Best done with a pint of ale.


More information can be found at

Visit Sandbar, 120 Grosvenor Street, Manchester or see online at