Yesterday I took a lovely (long) bus trip through Canterbury over to Margate to check out the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery’s latest exhibit Curiosity:  Art and the Pleasures of Knowing. I recently did a post on Margate’s Shell Grotto, and the exhibit definitely kept with the weird and quirky theme. The Turner Contemporary was opened in 2011 to great success, and has proven to be a wonderful addition to the town’s effort to revitalise its once booming tourism industry.

Turner Contemporary in Margate

Turner Contemporary in Margate

The Curiosity exhibit explores the world of human curiosity.

Enter a wonder, fascination, and inquiry. Experience the spectacular and the bizarre, the startling and mysterious, contemporary art alongside historical artefacts, as the gallery becomes a cabinet of curiosities.

The cabinet of curiosities, or Wunderkammer , were  collections of objects of wonder  that were set in rooms on display. These were very popular during the Renaissance to show off strange or odd objects that were collected by the owner. The objects were anything from fossils to African tribal masks, as long as they sparked human curiosity they were acceptable subject matter for the Wunderkammer. The Turner Contemporary exhibit follows in this tradition, each room full of oddities not necessarily connected to each other but bound by the same eccentric wonder.

I really enjoyed the Curiosity exhibit, each piece was interesting and thought provoking. I especially liked the Horniman walrus that was bought by Frederick Horniman in the 1890’s and then famously overstuffed. Apparently, folks at the time had never seen a live walrus, and didn’t realize that the creature was supposed to have wrinkles.

stuffed-walrus (1)

Horniman Walrus

The “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” was my favorite.  The Nutshell Studies are fascinating dioramas put together by Frances Glessner Lee that depict gruesome crime scenes. The exhibit showed images taken of these depictions of unexplained deaths, photographed by Corrine Botz. The nutshells were created in the 1940’s with incredible attention to detail. Frances had a hobby of scientific crime detection, and these models were based on actual crimes she read about in the newspaper, blended into fictional stories. Weird? Absolutely. Curious? Yes. Read more about the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death“.

Kitchen.

Kitchen. “The Nutshells of Unexplained Death”

The Curiosity exhibit at the Turner Contemporary was so much fun. I haven’t been to an exhibit that had so much character and new things to see in a long time.  I would even say that with all the interesting displays, the works by Leonardo da Vinci were the least exciting things at the gallery. The Curiosity exhibit at the Turner Contemporary in Margate will run until September 13th. If you live in England, or will be visiting before then, check it out. It is free, and well worth the trek to the seaside.

This post on the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery  is part of my Visit England project. Check back every week for new and interesting places that I visit around England. Be sure and subscribe to The Fly Away American so you never miss a post and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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