For the period from 19 May to 20 June 2010, Littmann Kulturprojekte is installing a temporary Cabinet of Art and Curiosities (Kunst- und Wunderkammer) in the basement of Kirschgartenstrasse 5 in Basel. The display comprises various old and new artefacts as well as precious and mysterious works by anonymous artists of international repute. Visitors can look forward to a spectacular mix of surprises and contrasts.

Any Baroque Prince worth his salt had his own Wunderkammer, complete with all manner of unusual and exquisite items. The benchmark was set by Rudolf II. of Prague, who sent his peers into raptures of delight and became the envy of all the other courts. How might such a treasure trove appear today? Klaus Littmann is about to treat us to an insight. With the assistance of Stasia Hutter, he has produced a contemporary take on the Wunderkammer in the underground chamber of Kirschgartenstrasse 5 in Basel. They have included all the necessary ingredients from history: naturalia and artificialia, exotica and scientifica. 

The setting certainly bears no resemblance to a princely castle but is instead a disused basement in an old industrial building – very drab and no doubt far removed from the expectations of Kaiser Rudolf. And yet, it provides the perfect place for these works to unfold their magic. The works themselves are contemporary and the various installations, photos and paintings (artificialia), artefacts from all continents (exotica), objects from the depths of the sea (naturalia) and unknown tools of researchers and craftsmen (scientifica) have all been created especially for this event. 

They have been gathered from collections spanning the whole of Switzerland from Kleinbasel to Valle di Muggio. The majority has never before been on public display and yet all pieces have a unique quality. As with the historical archetype, the effect is one of amazement, joy and surprise. In Basel in particular – where “old money” is not flaunted in front of the general public, the potential for discovery is infinite. The exhibition organisers achieve both contrast and harmony in presenting their innumerable findings – rather like an exquisite piece of chamber music heard for the very first time.

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