The Wunderkammer has been a permanent part of me Collectors Room in Auguststrasse since the opening of the exhibition space in 2010 and is currently the only one of its kind in Berlin. From 29 November 2012, the Wunderkammer will present spectacular artworks that have been recently acquired, along with several contemporary works from the Olbricht Collection that center on the theme of the Wunderkammer or historical ‘cabinet of curiosities’.
Among the new additions is the ‘Humboldt chalice’ (dating from the period between 1648 and 1653), which was later owned by Alexander von Humboldt. The object is a rare example of a coconut, mounted and adorned with carvings of Brazilian cannibals; only four comparable objects are preserved in public collections today. With the addition of one new room, the Wunderkammer will also introduce many other exotica that have not previously been on display, including preserved specimens of a Nile crocodile, some 470 cm in length, and a great blue turaco, both from the 19th century; Joachim Johann Nepomuk Spalowsky’s Beytrag zur Naturgeschichte der Vögel from 1791-1792, in several volumes with
excellent illustrations of birds; a ray-skin powder horn dating from the 17th century from the Ottoman Empire and even a turbo snail goblet set in a fire-gilded copper mount from ca. 1580. These artifacts evoke the spirit of discovery and exploration, curiosity and adventure—of new trade routes and trade relations, foreign cultures, exotic animals and plants—and not least the thirst for knowledge.
Wunderkammer or ‘cabinets of curiosities’ first evolved during the Renaissance to house collections of exquisite artworks (artificialia), rare objects from the natural world (naturalia), scientific instruments (scientifica), objects from foreign lands (exotica), as well as the mysterious and
unexplainable (mirabilia). Berlin also had its own art cabinet, which was founded by Prince-elector Joachim II (reigned 1535-1571). However, the few surviving objects have since been dispersed throughout various museums. The Wunderkammer Olbricht at me Collectors Room has revived the old tradition of cabinets of art and curiosities in Berlin. It gives us a deeper insight into the past, and is still capable today of achieving exactly what it did 200-300 years ago: astonishing and captivating an audience.
Alongside to the traditional objects in the Wunderkammer, a selection of previously unshown contemporary works from the Olbricht Collection will also be on display. These works, many of which are recent acquisitions, revolve around the subject of the Wunderkammer and are themselves objects of wonder. One such work is Wolfe von Lenkiewicz’s Garden of Earthly Delights. At first glance the painting looks like a copy of the original by Hieronymus Bosch, but upon closer inspection the viewer recognizes that the garden is awash with art-historical and pop-cultural references and is populated by such figures as the painter Francis Bacon and Pokémon characters.
Also on display are works by Bertozzi & Casoni, George Condo, Thierry de Cordier, Elmgreen & Dragset, Claire Fontaine, Friedrich Kunath, Esko Männikkö, Charles Matton, Kris Martin, Marilyn Minter, Grayson Perry, Antoine Roegiers / Pieter Brueghel (the Younger), Kehinde Wiley, as well as
a host of anti-modern new discoveries, such as GL Brierley, Laurent Grasso, Julie Heffernan, Kate MccGwire and Simmons & Burke.