The Collector’s Cabinet – 18th March to 7th April 2014

Anthony Outred - The Collector's CabinetAnthony Outred in their new exhibition, ‘The Collector’s Cabinet’ illustrates that today’s collector is returning to the habit of assembling pieces that recall the sixteenth or seventeenth Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer.  This collection of over 50 pieces has brought the idea up to date, following Anthony Outred’s own credo, ‘A man without a collection is a man without a soul’.

‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ is a term that refers to the extraordinary encyclopaedic collections that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance. The idea first emerged in the courtly circles of fifteenth century Italy, although as the 16th and 17th centuries progressed the tradition spread across Europe and beyond the court elite, reaching first scholars and then merchants and professionals.

The objects in these eclectic collections were incredibly diverse, ranging from exquisitely crafted treasures, to exotic ethnographic works and even scientific instruments and bizarre biological oddities. Artistic and scientific, natural and man made, ancient and modern – all of these categories sat side by side in the cabinet of curiosities. Indeed, variety was key to the conception of these cabinets, which were thought of as microcosms of the material world. By bringing together items from all of these categories, collectors hoped to replicate the wonder and diversity of both human and divine creation.

Once the height of courtly fashion, in time these cabinets came to be seen as outdated and antiquated – anachronistic ‘curiosities’ in themselves. As the Renaissance gave way to the Age of Enlightenment, the increasing importance of rigid taxonomies meant that the fluid, encyclopaedic approach of the Wunderkammer fell out of favour. Collectors began to divide their objects into sharply delineated categories, keeping artistic and scientific pieces carefully apart.

Now however, artists, institutions and collectors alike are challenging these boundaries, and leading a resurgence of interest in the cabinet of curiosities. Their fascinating ideology and old-world aesthetic have proved a rich source of inspiration for contemporary artists, whilst museums and galleries have been revisiting their encyclopaedic approach as a means of display. Most importantly, today’s collectors are embracing the eclectic, extravagant spirit of the cabinet of curiosities, reaching beyond traditional categories and genres to curate collections that reflect the richness and diversity of their own lives and experience.

This exhibition celebrates this renewed fascination with the curious and the rare, bringing together a sumptuous selection of cabinet pieces. Whether you are drawn to intricate ivory carvings and luxurious objects of vertu; rare taxidermy and entomoligical specimens; or exotic Eastern and African artefacts, we hope to tempt you with our eclectic range of modern-day curios. After all, these are works that would sit happily in the most distinguished collector’s cabinet.

This small pocket of Belgravia - just a few minutes walk from Sloane Square - is home to some of the finest antiques shops and galleries in London. There is a vast array of choice; endless variety that satisfies every appetite from the expert eye to the simply inquisitive looking for something special.