“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice. But in these days of rolling news, email overload and smartphone information onslaught, there’s not much to wonder about that can’t be slaked at the click of a button. Which is why a new gallery is opening in London this weekend, with a mission “to fuel curiousity in those who have it, and to reignite it in those unfortunate to have forgotten they ever did”.
The Museum of Curiosity is inspired by the ‘Wunderkammern' of Renaissance Europe: collections put together by wealthy, well-travelled patrons that sought to represent a microcosm of the world by drawing together diverse and wonderful objects from natural history, religious relics, historical and archaeological artifacts together with works of art.
The idea is drawn from British curiosity collector Sir Hans Sloane whose celebrated collection of 71,000 objects, chiefly natural history specimens, coins, books and other curios became the founding basis of the British Museum and Natural History Museums the nation was bequeathed it after his death in 1753.
But, as the Museum of Curiosity’s press release gaily announces, "you can’t buy the stuff at the British Museum’, gallerist and collector Mike Snelle has created an environment in which you can. Un-poetically branding his catalogue of curiosities as “weird shit”, Snelle is purveying objects all sorts of objects from the natural and man-made world.
These include a tray of eyeballs, a human skeleton, a Walrus’ penis bone beautifully carved with thirteen human skulls, the tusk of a woolly mammoth and a selection of early medical instruments, an ice age wolf skull. Such objects will be offered alongside specially commissioned works by artists that follow an unusual bent from taxidermists to creators of microscopic insect skeleton fairies.
“Many museums seem to function primarily as archivists, recording the achievements and discoveries of past civilisations or cataloguing the natural world. The Museum of Curiosity hopes instead to be a living museum, a source of future discoveries, and to do this by celebrating and inspiring the wonder which causes them. And anyway, weird shit is just cool,” Snelle says.
Museum of Curiosity opens at Pertwee, Anderson & Gold Gallery, Bateman Street, Soho on Saturday