Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing

Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
The Horniman Museum walrus © Courtesy of The Horniman Museum and Gardens
Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing
Curated by: Brian Dillon

CT9 1HG Margate
May 24th, 2013 - September 15th, 2013
Opening: May 23rd, 2013 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

United Kingdom
01843 233 000
Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays 10am-6pm.


Enter a world of 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.

‘Like the cabinet of curiosities of the 17th century, which mixed science and art, ancient

and modern, reality and fiction, this exhibition refuses to choose between knowledge
and pleasure. It juxtaposes historical periods and categories of objects to produce an eccentric map of curiosity in its many senses’ says Curator Brian Dillon.

See the absurdly over stuffed Horniman Museum walrus, which has travelled to the seaside having left its current home for the first time since the 1890s, sit proudly in our North gallery. Works by contemporary artists including Katie Paterson, Pablo Bronstein, Tacita Dean and Gerard Byrne expose past and present fascinations such as astronomy, animals, maps and humankind’s obsession with collecting, blurring the boundaries of art, science and fantasy.

Historical artefacts abound with Albrecht Dürer’s celebrated Rhinoceros woodcut (1515); beautiful bird studies by the gallery’s namesake JMW Turner; late 19th century models of aquatic creatures by German glassmakers Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka; the mineral collection of Roger Caillois from the Natural History Museum in Paris, the diarist and botanist John Evelyn’s cabinet, ivory anatomical models from the 17th and 18th centuries, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia with its startingly detailed illustration of a flea, and a penguin collected from one of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions from our neighbour the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington-on-Sea.

A Hayward Touring exhibition, in collaboration with Turner Contemporary and curated by Brian Dillon. Also in association with New York art and culture magazine Cabinet.

Turner Contemporary architect David Chipperfield conceived the design for the exhibition in Margate, and Curiosity is set to tour to Norwich and Amsterdam. 

A playful, informative book with essays by Brian Dillon and Marina Warner will accompany the exhibition, available from our shop.

Brian Dillon is a writer and critic, and UK editor of Cabinet magazine. His books include Sanctuary (Sternberg Press, 2011), Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (Penguin, 2009), which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005), which won the Irish Book Award for non-fiction. He writes regularly for the Guardian, the London Review of Books, frieze and Artforum. He lives in Canterbury and teaches critical writing at the Royal College of Art.