Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities

Odilon Redon’s The Egg, 1885

On Sunday evening, my friend Dara and I attended “MoMA by Night”, an after-hours event presented by PopRally at the Museum of Modern Art. Three exhibitions, all focusing on dreams, fantasies, and nocturnal landscapes, were open to attendees for viewing and guided tours. Dara and I entered the bizarre and fascinating world of Wunderkammer (pronounced voon-dehr-kah-mehr), which translates to “a cabinet of curiosities”. The exhibit presented a collection of objects, sketches, photographs, and paintings from the 19th to the 21st century, although the concept of Wunderkammer dates back to mid-sixteenth century Europe. Nature, beasts, insects, the human body, and indefinable creatures were common subjects in the artists’ work, much of which had surrealist qualities. I was continually drawn to the lithographs in the exhibit, particularly those of the French artist Odilon Redon, whose mysterious yet whimsical work entitled The Egg is shown above. The Wunderkammer exhibit closed yesterday, but many of the works can still be viewed in the online exhibit.

Rodolfo Abularach’s Ojo Enigmatico (Enigmatic Eye), 1969

Nicolas Lampert’s Locust Tank, 2006

We also had some time to stroll through “Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night“, which features nocturnal paintings from throughout the artist’s career, along with drawings, letters, and literary excerpts that inspired him. Paintings like The Starry Night and The Night Café are always breathtaking up close, but I was equally impressed by Van Gogh’s poetic letters to his brother Theo. He really had a way with words, particularly when describing his attraction to the night (in one letter he compares the colors of the night sky to a symphony). The exhibit is on display online and at the museum until January 5, 2009.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888

It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day. -Vincent Van Gogh, September 8, 1888.

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One Response to Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities

  1. GrannyJ says:

    Oh, that locust tank is Bee-You_Ti-Ful! I want one.

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