London Life Exhibitions

The Art of the Curious

October 7, 2013

There seems to be a zeitgeist for curiosities in the art world, also known as cabinets of curiosities.

I’ve just sadly missed one such exhibition! curiosity: art and the pleasures of knowing

This wonderful looking exhibition in margate, kent (ended on the 15th september) described itself as: ‘enter a world of wonder, fascination and inquiry. Experience the spectacular and the bizarre, the startling and mysterious, contemporary art alongside historical artefacts, as the gallery becomes a cabinet of curiosities.’

Furthermore, although on my list to visit, i also never made it to the studies for mind pop-up gallery at the sir john soane’s museum. To coincide with the london design festival, the museum presented a cabinet of curiosities of five designer’s works.

It will therefore come as no surprise that when i discovered that there’s yet another exhibition on cabinets of curiosities here in london, i wasn’t going to miss this one. Art of the curious, an exhibition of the rare, the bizarre and the beautiful is housed in the rather spectacular colnaghi gallery on old bond street.

This collaborative exhibition, in conjunction with munich’s kunstkammer georg laue gallery, beautifully illustrates the spirit of the 17th century cabinets of curiosities (known as kunstkammer and wunderkammer). To make it relevant to the present, they’ve included pieces of living contemporary artists that could relate to the subject.

Katrin bellinger, the gallery’s co-owner notes: “With damien hirst’s animals in formaldehyde, skulls seen on alexander mcqueen scarves and fashion shops embracing taxidermy, an interest in kunstkammer has moved into the mainstream.”

Ok, all pieces on show are for sale and range from £300 to £750.000 but i urge you to forget the price tags and just go along if you can to see the wonderful array of curiosities. The gallery is situated in a wonderful house and the exhibition is on the second and third floor with gorgeous views!

I particularly liked Steffen dam‘s work. It’s a contemporary take on the some more ‘macabre’ objects used in the 17th century.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Look at these botanical teaching models by robert and reinhold brendel.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Confession time, i’ve always had a bit of a weakness for these vanitas skulls.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

The mole cricket and lantern fly by pieter holsteijn were breathtaking but sadly out of my price range at £42.000 and £37.500 respectively.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Bernard durin‘s study of a beetle from new guinea has been sold. The colours are piercingly beautiful!

Art of Curiosites - colourliving
© L. Durin

Another great piece i could have gladly taken home with me. Sarah Graham‘s Titanus Giantess.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Natasha daintry‘s skin deep is a direct response to the life-like wax head of an indian man (see below) which was part of a kunstkammer collection. This installation of small porcelain cylinders is stunning!

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

Last but certainly not least, one of the most spectacular pieces in the exhibition. This painting by jan brueghel the younger, entiltled floral still life is €860.000 It sits quite unassuming next to other pieces. My photo doesn’t do it any justice.

Art of Curiosites - colourliving

If you love cabinets of curiosities, old master paintings and the juxtaposition of the new and old, then this exhibition is a must!

Art of the Curious, 2-20 2013 October  at Colnaghi, 15 Old Bond Street, London W1

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  • Reply Jacintha | Urban Pixxels October 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Cool! My house can definitely use some additional curiosities :-). Not sure about the price tag though… But love the Steffen Dam jars! I’m gonna have a look soon.

    • Reply tina October 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Haha. I know! BUT, I have the price list here and there are some items for £300.
      Some of Natasha Daintrys porcelain pots were very affordable and so unique.

      I think you will like it and the house the gallery is in is fantastic! Happy Birthday:-)

  • Reply Anya Jensen October 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I always loved the word curious & curiosities and this is right up my street Tina. Only thing that gives me the Heebie-jeebies are the eyeballs – ohh I hate eyeballs (probably coz I love my eyes so much – they are used constantly;-) Great collections – so good you made this one. Happy Monday

    • Reply tina October 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Yes, what is it about the word: curiosities??
      Oh, sorry about the eyeballs…

      I just realised there was yet another exhibition on cabinets of curiosities. It’s definitely in Vogue x

  • Reply Jocelyn Casey October 8, 2013 at 9:57 am

    The last image, the flower painting. WOW. Curiosity is good, thank you for sharing your thoughts and wonderful images. Jocelyn

    • Reply tina October 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Isn’t it just? It was truly breath taking…
      Thank you Jocelyn x

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey October 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Tina you should have saved this for Halloween 😉 I’m a bit freaked by some of those exhibits. The floral still life is beautiful.

    And I love the word ‘Kunstkammer’ 🙂

    Thanks xx

    • Reply tina October 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Hahaha! You have a point, EXCEPT the exhibition finishes before Halloween:-))

      Oh, G, I sometimes forget how delicate you are. Sorry love, not meant to freak anyone out!
      Agreed, the floral still life is beautiful.

      Ha. Kunstkammer has something aristocratic about it, don’t you think? I also love the word: Wunderkammer because it promises to be ‘exciting’.
      Pleasure xx

  • Reply Pretty Dandy October 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    What an interesting-sounding exhibition. I love curiosities and unusual objects… although I’m not sure about the head! Thanks for sharing.


    • Reply tina October 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks Becky. It’s one thing looking at these objects, and another to actually live with them. Some of the pickled animals I didn’t show because
      I did think that some people would be too freaked out at looking at snakes et cetera.

      the head is scary, let me tell you and yet so imposing!!

  • Reply geraldine October 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    There is indeed an eerie feel to this but just makes me want to look more. Love the colourful porcelain cylinders. Such an interesting exhibition, thanks for the peek. Wishing you a lovely week. x

    • Reply tina October 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Oh, I’m glad you see it that way. It’s sort of like the forbidden fruit, right?
      You know Natasha, who’s done the colourful porcelain cylinders has some other ones in the show for £300-£500 pounds. So some of it is affordable.
      Thanks Geraldine x

  • Reply Alison Sye October 9, 2013 at 7:16 am

    This looks great Tina, might try and see it, although isn’t on for long so might not manage it. Just looked at the website and they’re only open on weekdays, so maybe I won’t have an opening. Fab photography, as usual.

    • Reply tina October 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      I hope you get to see it… I think you’ll like it x

  • Reply Gudy Herder October 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I do like this little fascinating world too. There is an exhibitor at the Maison&Objet called Objet de curiosité I never miss visiting where you find all this kind of things. The botanical models here are my faves. Fab pics too, Tina!

    • Reply tina October 10, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Hi Gudy, hope you had a good time in LA;-)
      Glad you enjoy curiosities and the company you visit at Maison & Object sound great! Must look them up.

      What made this exhibition so special for me is that they combined vintage curiosities with Old Master Paintings and contemporary artists who interpreted the cabinets of curiosities in their own way. If you were in London I would take you:-)

  • Reply Doris October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Oh I love this… I too loved Steffen dam‘s work – just fascinating, some of the prices were steep but I can understand and imagine that a lot of work went into each piece. xD

    • Reply tina October 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      So, bit confused. Have you been to see this?

      Yes, I loved SD work. So strong, contemporary and easy on the eyes but in an interesting way.

      Sure prices are steep but such a wonderful exhibition to have been able to visit. Pure joy and inspiration x

  • Reply Louise - 30s Magazine October 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I love to browse cabinets of curiosities. Although I have to say, some the things are just eerie. In Amsterdam there is a shop that has a good collection. I mentioned them in one of my Amsterdam old south posts. When you visit Amsterdam you should definitely check it out. I can easily spend an hour in that shop, it’s so intriguing.

    • Reply tina October 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      Wasn’t sure you would like this… the shop in Amsterdam sounds interesting. Will check out!

      There was lots of other stuff like Jewellery et cetera that you would have enjoyed. Couldn’t photograph and show everything.
      Thank Louise.

  • Reply Holly October 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Oh fun! It is sad that we missed the “studies for mind” exhibit 🙁 But this is wonderful. Dam’s work is so my thing – laboratory like, bringing to mind things like disection and preservation and examination … love it.

    The bugs I could really do without. Insect legs give me the heebie-jeebies. But of course, I can appreciate the work/talent.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

    • Reply tina October 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Holly. I knew you would enjoy Damm’s work. My photography doesn’t do it justice.

      I always think of your HVH blog and art meets science. I loved when you shared your research posts with us!

      I know I showed too much eerie stuff:-) but it very much appealed to me

  • Reply Michaela October 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

    OMG I thought that wax head was real – it really gave me the willies!

    I saw something the other day on the new Brian Cox program Science Britannica that you might like – there’s a really interesting collection from the renowned surgeon John Hunter from the 18th C. Apparently he got into a bit of trouble by employing grave robbers to enable his experiments!

    It’s at the Royal College of Physicians – here’s a linky, Michaela xx

    • Reply tina October 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Hahahaha! Hope you’ve recovered from the shock:-)

      Oh, like John Hunter stuff.. Thanks for the link. Will defo check it out…. xx

  • Reply Michaela October 11, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Correction: sorry it’s at the Royal College of Surgeons! (can’t blame that one on autocorrect!) Michaela xx

  • Reply Tracey@chalkboard living October 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Woah. Are they jellyfish? Pretty cool although some definitely freakio stuff too!

    • Reply tina October 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, not for the faint-hearted… I didn’t show the really bad stuff…. snakes and all xx

  • Reply Catherine October 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Fascinating world, so interesting this is coming into vogue now, it’s very cool. I love the jelly fish suspended in the glass tubes, so beautiful. The skulls give me the creeps but I think this exhibition is brilliant and would love to have visited. Marvelling at how detailed an insects body can be with such vivid beautiful colours. xx 🙂

    • Reply tina October 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      It’s very different seeing it in real life. It’s really imposing.

      I was also fascinated by the insects. There was an anatomical model of a Cockchafer, split in half with all the insides shown beautifully.
      Glad you enjoyed this Catherine xx

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