KUNSTKAMMER.. The traditional name for a “Cabinet of Curiosities”, like this exhibition space was “Kunstkammer” – an art room where arts and treasures from all over the world were kept and studied. In the European tradition, wealthy collectors assembled works of contemporary painting and sculptures, ancient art from excavations, specimens from around the natural world, new scientific instruments, and cultural artifacts from exotic places. All the treasures of the world were collected so that the affluent could enjoy and study them. The collectors were royalty or aristocrats, who competed with each other to acquire the most impressive marvels from all over the world. These cabinet played an important role in intellectual history; the process of studying, classifying and recording new plants, animals and artifacts from Asia, Africa and Americas led Europe of a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the diversity of the world.
The Harris Collection recreates the approach, but unifies the collection by focusing on one issue: human mortality. In doing so Richard Harris has created a collection that can be enjoyed and studied on many different levels. The variety of cultures and historical periods found in the room are testament to an ongoing, permanent interest in this theme. Humankind has been coping with death and mortality for its whole history. Different cultures and religion have developed varying attitudes towards death and the afterlife; but they are united in their interest in the topic; it is universally relevant. The arrangement of the works in this room encourages viewers to make connections, and to recognize the shared interest and different assumptions, among object from very different periods and locations.
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