Using antique items such as dishes, textiles, books, maps, minerals and artwork by famous artists, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is displaying collectors items that laid the groundwork for today’s modern museums in an exhibition titled “The World Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector’s Cabinet and the Politics of Possession.”
“It’s an encyclopedic collection, which means it has art and other objects from around the entire world,” said Diva Zumaya, curator of the exhibition. “I hope people come out of this exhibition rethinking and reconsidering these stories behind museums and why we collect what we collect.”
The exhibition runs Sept.17-March 3, 2024 and is made up of about 300 items that would have appeared in private collections amassed by people across Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries in what were then known as collector’s cabinets.
“This exhibition essentially assembles a 17th Century Dutch collector’s cabinet,” Zumaya said. “This is a type of collection that really elite wealthy people assembled that included natural specimens and art.”
Also known as cabinets of curiosities, these kinds of collections were private, but nevertheless they eventually laid the foundation for the rise of modern public museums, Zumaya said.
The majority of museums around the world opened during the 18th century. Before that, most artwork was visible to the public only if it was outdoors or in churches, she added.
“It was a process that took a couple of centuries, but in some cases specific museums emerged directly from a collector’s cabinet and in other cases the idea itself is what was inspiring,” she said.
Many of the pieces come from LACMA’s permanent collection and the exhibition is accompanied by an audio guide. Among the pieces on display is a Rembrandt etching and other paintings from the famous artist, a Japanese lacquer chest, an Egyptian necklace dating back to about 600 B.C. and Chinese cups from the Ming Dynasty that were carved from rhinoceros horns.
“Those are really incredible objects from the collection. They’re going to be juxtaposed with a real rhinoceros horn from the Natural History Museum,” she said.
Also on display will be various gems like rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
“There’s a ton of gems and I think that’s a huge appeal, gems and minerals that are visually stunning,” Zumaya said.
‘The World Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector’s Cabinet and the Politics of Possession’
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Sept. 17-March 3, 2024. Museum is closed on Wednesdays.
Where: LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Tickets: Museum general admission starts at $21 for adults and $16 for seniors at lacma.org.