23 October 2008
Wonder cabinets emerged in the late sixteenth century and grew in popularity in the 17th century. They offered a portrait of the world in miniature to patrons and collectors newly fascinated by places and things beyond the familiar of Europe - a finite space filled with a sampling of the world’s infinite strangeness.
Christchurch Art Gallery’s Wunderbox, which opens on 28 November, is no exception. It offers an exhibition of secretive spaces, fictitious collections and idiosyncratic dioramas from some of New Zealand’s most compelling contemporary artists, drawn largely from the Gallery’s own contemporary collections.
“Wunderbox brings together spaces, model worlds and eccentric collections by artists including Judy Darragh, Andrew Drummond, Bill Hammond, Neil Pardington, Francis Upritchard, Terry Urbahn and Ronnie van Hout. Exhibits range from one of the largest works in the Gallery’s collection - right through to one of the smallest. This is an opportunity to see them in a fresh context,” says the Gallery’s Senior Curator Justin Paton.
“This is an exhibition about our attempts to collect and categorise the world,” he says. “It’s also, more importantly, about the moments of doubt, wonder and pleasurable confusion that arise when the world slips through those categories.” With objects on view including bell jars, boxes, cabinets, dolls, display cases, two monkeys, several bees, hundreds of hooks and one miniature coffin, the exhibition includes something to capture everyone’s attention.
Several new acquisitions at the Gallery will also make an appearance, including Ronnie van Hout’s little End Doll in his customised wooden coffin, Neil Pardington’s view of a bone-filled museum store, and Francis Upritchard’s works of wayward taxidermy, Husband and Wife.
“More than all of this though, Wunderbox is an opportunity to look at collecting as a creative, imaginative act rather than a dry and dutiful accumulation,” says Gallery Director Jenny Harper. “I hope that people will come along and be both entertained and inspired.”
Wunderbox will be at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu from 28 November 2008 until 15 February 2009.
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