My Wunderkammer Collection

My collection gathered while visiting collections and museums across the UK with the Wunderkammer Field project.
The ideas and context behind it.


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A collage of a selection from my cake collection.

Before starting our travels across the country, I decided to scrutinise the catering facilities of each of the establishments we would visit, through a quick review of cakes – their taste, texture, etc., but also the ideas behind them, the presentation, and the context – of the environment, museum, company, etc.

Classical museums were hardly built with cafes as one if its main attraction points, or hardly even included in the architecture.
However, they became the hearth of museums and galleries, which not only soothe the thirst for knowledge, but the more bodily needs too. For most visitors, cafe experience in museums is as essential as seeing the fossils and dinosaurs, learning facts about coal, playing around with electronic interactive exhibits, or seeing Rodin’s Kiss.

I like sugar. I like fat. I’m human and therefore interesting in consuming, but I’m also interested in seeing how I’m consuming art, information and knowledge, and how they effect each other, and how I remember the experiences while visiting museums and galleries on this Field trip.

Ratings of museums on Google Maps are largely influenced by the cafe experience, with as many words and photographs, if not more, dedicated to cafe – its staff, menu, cleanness, presentation or price and value.


Nevertheless, I feel that my enjoyment of the cakes had no influence on how I enjoyed and seen the art and collections.
I felt rather lost and uninspired in the Whitworth, Manchester, but their cafe was magnificent, with the highest rated cakes.

There’s a great distance from the cafe experience and museums, they don’t influence or interact with each other much, other that the medium of blood, as when my sugar levels drop I feel distracted and couldn’t concentrate.

However, there’s one aspect, and that is the feeling of welcome. I did feel more welcomed in the museum where I could slow down, reflect and satisfy my tastebuds.
I think I would order my collection by how welcomed the whole experience made me feel in the museum or gallery, not by the taste test (as all of them were comparatively good).

The Wellcome Collection, Cardiff Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum and St Fagans would be on first place, as their cafes are located in very central location of the establishment, with at least some exhibits or artworks displayed around. With the St Fagans it was even more special as you enjoyed themed food, technically within the exhibition object/relic, while experiencing history and tradition.

Ashmolean Museum, Birmingham Museum?, The Hepworth Wakefield, YSP?, The Whitworth or Manchester Gallery were rather disjointed from the rest of the building and collections, making the whole experience less wholesome.

At the other end, such as Hunterian Museum, had no cafe and you felt rather alienated as the building’s main purpose was to house the Royal College of Surgeons, not you as a visitor; or the Soane’s Museum where limited space restricted the maximum visitors and their time in.

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The Hunterian Museum, London – Wunderkammer Field Presentation

A presentation of our allocated museums, on their core collections and collectors, ethos, organisation, curation, architecture, history and context.
I was allocated the Hunterian Museum in London, within the Royal College of Surgeons’ Headquarters.


I was glad I got to research deeply and digest data on a scientific based collection. My fascination was quickly directed to the strong ethos of careful observation and objective scientific method, that led John Hunter to collect around 15,000 specimens.
This approach, and the exhibits themselves, helped him to make a number of breakthroughs in medical surgery, which the curation of the museum reflects.

During my presentation, straight after the presentation on another science based collection of Wellcome Foundation, a deep conversation on ethics emerged.
The collection itself, as well as how some of the artefacts were acquired, raised questions on what is appropriate in art, medicine and science.
The exhibiting of the objects, human parts, in a public museum setting requires special attention, that’s why the ban of photography in Hunterian Museum.

Cardiff Museum (1) and Introduction to the Wunderkammer Field project

Introduction to the project; to the nature of collections, its acquisition, its taxonomy, presentation, housing, as well as our first visit to a museum.


We had an extensive and compelling 2 introductions to the project and nature of collections. From eclectic collection of all the possibilities in arranging and categorising collections: from alphabetical order, colour and material, size and description, geographical location, grouping by type and theme, artist or collector, taste and style.

Other artists or curators took these aspects even further, and layer multiple meanings and categorisation into one, exploring the new relationships created, such as Richard Wentworth with his Boost to Wham, Claire Twomey and her engaging interventions, or David Shrigley shining a critical eye on how objects are displayed  and what ideas are presented in public establishments.

Scrutinising and looking at museums and collections more deeply raised basic questions of what they are actually for, and what can we find in them or what can we learn from them.


Cardiff Museum was constructed later than any other major cities, as a status of newly established, industrial cities. Built together and alongside the the City Hall and the Court of Justice, as an essential part in the life of city and it’s urbanised community.
The classical building, build in modern industrial era is presenting a forward-looking ideas, showing the past but finishing with the ambitions of current workers, about the social progress, advancing to a female graduate.

The main art collection that the Museum holds is the acquisitions of the Davies Sisters. Their industrial father built the 2nd largest port of that time in Barry (after Cardiff).
Despite the extreme industrial landscape of then current Cardiff and the area, and the source of their inherited income, their choice in art was mainly based on romantic landscape, and mythical imagery and figures; seemingly to counteract the ugliness, desperation and fast progress caused by the rapid industrialisation.
Their collection show the middle ground between the current, very conservative art of the Royal Academy of Arts, such as Constable, and The New English Club and avant-garde with acquisitions like Monet, Rembrandt or Van Gogh. Other acquisitions include works by Walter Sickert, Augustus John, Rodin, Van Gogh or J.M.W Turner.

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This really makes the answers even more complex and raises more questions. Mostly about context and motivations for a collections. Through who’s eyes is the art collection reflecting the world they see. What is the art doing to them and what to public that see it. How the ethos of the building and the institution shapes the collections and ideas presented. ….

CoCA

DRAFT

Our 2 day trip to the Harley Gallery and Studios, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Centre of Ceramic Art within York Art Gallery.
An immerse and deep exploration of British Studio Pottery: from meeting practitioners, to the curators, collectors and archivers.


With over 5 500 ceramic artefact, CoCA is a waste collection and resource of ceramic practice in the UK. Its important work is to tell the stories of significant artists, potters and/or makers working with clay, and their collectors.
It’s to the generosity of The Very Reverend Dean Eric Milner-White, W.A. Ismay, Henry Rothschild and Anthony Shaw that this public collection can showcase the most complete story of British studio ceramics.

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1) As we live in wold of big data, there is so much information in our world, so many products, ideas, concepts and data created every day, we can’t possibly see and experience most of them.
Growing in importance, it is curator’s job to digest, choose, present and restrict the flow of information, same as collectors who’s collections are exhibited and studied, they can direct our tastes and presences.
But as we discovered, not all creators has to have money or influential position to exert this kind of power. It’s more about dedication, passion, and confidence in own decision.
But they must bee influenced too, in the never ending network of constant selecting and rejecting.

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Curators’ job is more to select and digest already existing collections, within a public institution with public collections, or as with CoCA, private collections donated for public use.

I was very delighted by the refreshing connections of classical fine art paintings and contemporary ceramic art/craft. …

“Like other forms of art, its [curation’s] function is not the restoration of context of origin but rather the creation of a new context.” (S. Stewart, Objects of Desire)

2) As to the extensive network of people guiding and presenting what we see, David Clarke tries to understand material culture as a system with subsystems.
David describes 5 main subsystems:

  1. Social subsystem: the hierarchical network of inferred personal relationships, including kinship and rank stats.
  2. Religious subsystem: the structure of mutually adjusted beliefs relating tot he supernatural.
  3. Psychological subsystem: the integrated system of supra-personal subconscious beliefs induced upon the individual in a society by their culture, their environment and their language.
  4. Economic subsystem
  5. Material culture subsystem

“These five subsystems headings are transparently based on the prejudices of current opinion, underlining their arbitrary nature,”

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“A static and schematic model of the dynamic equilibrium between the subsystem networks of a single sociocultural system and its total environment system”.

As all the 4 private collectors basically knew each other and hugely influenced one-another , their collection can’t be called vast and comprehensive.

3) A carefully curated domestic space, exhibited within a public gallery space was rather exciting to see, comparing that most collections are displayed in museum settings behind glass. It showed individual’s taste in it’s most natural state. Such display inspired new ways of curating our own spaces, as well as giving more attention to the aesthetics of the ceramic objects.

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Anthony Shaw as the latest contributor with his collection of contemporary ceramics that still grows, actually did bring new direction and feel within the overall  collection.

I liked his opinion, and it was rather motivating, that makers should predominantly work true to themselves, rather than try to adapt to the market and try to figure out what people want.
But then the curators and influential collectors should guide people’s taste better, for more progressive and supportive directions, beneficial for the makers.

4) Psychology of collecting, as an addition to functional and decorative

Although I feel CoCa’s collection is rather biased and mostly showing similar single direction and aesthetics of ceramic practice, I’m happy that there’s the curational discussion and openness to innovate. With the domestic display of Anthony Shaw’s collection, or pairing object from rather dissimilar practices and timeframes to stimulate new ways of looking and discussing, there’s an interesting progression for innovation.


Publications used:

Interpreting Objects and Collections; Susan M. Pearce; 1994
Photographs, Museums, Collections Between Art and Information; E. Edwards and C. Morton; 2015
Centre of Ceramic Art an introduction; Helen Walsh; York Museum Trust
The Anthony Shaw Collection