This ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ on Auguststraße is really something special and definitely worth a visit if you appreciate the scary side of history. Unlike Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and other museums of the same ilk, everything in this Wunderkrammer is unique, authentic, and utterly beautiful, with over 200 exquisitely preserved objects from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The immaculate quality of the objects is what makes this collection one of the most important of its kind; it achieves in instilling a sense of true wonder in those who visit, and you might leave as I did, your head reeling with ideas of constructing your own awe-inspiring collection of oddities.
Immediately as you enter the building you find yourself in the museum cafe, itself an eclectic but intriguing mixture of minimalist chic and eerie objects. Mannequins with taxidermy gazelle heads lean casually on the white washed walls, cloudy medicine bottles and silver-plated teaspoons stand among the cakes and fruity soft drinks displayed on the counter, and huge chandeliers spewing ornate detail in rainbow coloured glass hang from the towering ceilings.
Head on upstairs to the curiosities, and be sure to keep an eye out for all the little wonders on display. Small but nevertheless incredible objects include miniature crucifixes made from wood and marble depicting whole biblical scenes, a skeletal torso of a man covered in blue and orange crystals, and anatomical teaching models of pregnant women with detachable wombs. You will also see a narwhal horn, a number of wooden and ceramic figures depicting monks and death in arms, shrunken heads, and Chinese puzzle balls carved from ivory.
me Collectors Room are also infamous for housing shocking and innovate temporary exhibitions. When I was there I saw an exhibition called ‘Queensize’, dedicated solely to female artists. Using all manner of multimedia, these 150 works focus on themes of death and birth, the male gaze, the objectification of the female body, and the grizzly topics associated with current feminist issues. Featuring pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Klara Kristalova, Sükran Moral, and Cindy Sherman to name a few, this exhibition was unsettling, grotesque, and nightmarish, and exactly as it was intended to be. Particularly disturbing was Patricia Piccinini’s Balasana, a silicone and fibreglass sculpture of a little girl fast asleep on a carpet, crouched over on her knees with an albino wallaby on her back. The sculpture is so life like you almost don’t want to go near it for fear of waking her. Her head is turned away from a painting depicting a naked man, hanging on the wall. I saw this as her innocence protecting her from the sexualisation of older men. Her skin is glowing healthily, and her palms are outstretched, portraying openness and trust.
I left the exhibition rooms with my eyes substantially wider than before, and immediately went to buy a load of gorgeously macabre illustrated books about world curiosities and art collecting from the museum gift shop. If I can claim anything, it’s that this theatre of the world deserves a standing ovation.