The exhibition Cabinets of Curiosities reveals the ongoing fascination of European collectors with exotic animals, plants, minerals, and art objects, hitherto unknown in the West; such artefacts (natural and artificial) were brought back to Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries by shipping expeditions intent on exploring the ‘new continents’ of Asia, America, Africa, and Oceania. Their beauty, strangeness, and rarity invested these objects with great value and their esteemed owners displayed them as ‘curios’ in richly decorated cabinets, or small rooms, to the great delight of their fortunate guests.
It is such ‘cabinets of curiosities’ that inspired 18th and 19thcentury scholars to develop their scientific research and to establish an educational system for the study of the natural sciences.
Thanks to the exceptional generosity of the Maison Deyrolle, founded in 1831 and itself a living repository of French practice and knowledge tied to cabinets of curiosities, and to that of the Musee du Vivant, the exhibition will introduce the Hong Kong audience to this fascinating universe for the first time, one that continues to inspire some of the greatest artists and collectors around the world.
The exhibition stresses the great diversity and richness inherent in nature, through a careful selection of exceptional artefacts from the 18th century to the present. In so doing, the exhibition also wishes to educate the public and create awareness about the difficulty of preserving this fragile and beautiful nature, the source of artistic creativity of many Western and Asian contemporary artists.