PARIS – The forthcoming sale in Paris on 26 March entitled The Cabinet of Curiosities: A Modern Approach got me thinking about what exactly a ‘curiousity’ was. To me, there are two aspects to the notion. First of all: a state of mind. Sixteenth-century connoisseurs were inspired by an insatiable thirst for universal, exhaustive knowledge, which prompted them to accumulate all sorts of objects.
The second aspect is tinged with mystery and touches on the intangible. What is an object of curiosity if not an object of desire? Thinking about impulsive and subconscious desire begs a further question: why do people wish to acquire such objects? For their aesthetic quality, or for their rarity? Or maybe because of a sudden fascination with their materials? A taste for the exotic? Or perhaps it is a combination of all these things. Collectors of curiosities are drawn to the unknown; potentially the tangible objects they have just acquired bring them closer to the divine. There is nothing surprising about the fact that Curiositiés often flirt with Death – historic Cabinets of Curiosity are laden with skull-shaped vanitas.
Today’s connoisseurs are attracted, above all, by the feeling of strangeness that emanates from curiosities. Isn’t this exactly what contemporary artists are seeking? A desire for knowledge, possession and vertigo… Curiosities are all this and more.
Pierre Le Tan, Curiosité, 2013. Estimate €2,000–3,000.
The Cabinet of Curiosities: A Modern Approach will be sold in Paris on 26 March.