This is a preliminary list of artists in whose work the Stag plays a part. The roles it performs are ironic, monumental, cryptic, erotic, mythological… In some cases the Stag inspires performance actions, in others it is used as a meta-reference to other symbolic uses of the Stag, in advertising for instance. Some artists make isolated Stag references here and there, while for others it is a central component of their aesthetic.
Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK)
Paperchase Christmas display, London 2006.
Preliminary work on this project began in mid-2004, although informal tracking of symbolic stags dates back much further. In each of the last two years it’s become obvious that red deer stags (rather than just reindeer) are increasingly pressed into service as a symbol of Christmas.
In the British context, native red deer are easier to relate to than reindeer and this may represent a modified return to Victorian era symbolism. Last year, the clothes chain Urban Outfitters’ Christmas displays featured woodcut style placards featuring traditional looking stags. This year the furniture store Heal’s has produced an interesting cross breed: what seems to be a British stag (rather than reindeer) except that it is completely white.
On the same stretch of Tottenham Court Road the largest store in the Paperchase stationery chain is decorated with totally Stag/antler centred window and store displays. This features a generic, stylised Stag head and antlers. So although reindeer remain the most frequent Christmas reference, generic and red deer stags are increasingly central to the representation of the festive season. For aficionados of stag symbolism this can be a rewarding time, even if you are strict and exclude reindeer from your observations. Send us your sightings.