Contact

Museumsvej 2A
DK-7500 Holstebro
+ 45 9742 4518
info@holstebrokunstmuseum.dk

 

Cabinet of Wonders by John Olsen


Half a brain from Tarm, a shrunken head from Ecuador, two mummified cats and a burnt owl - these are some of the objects one can encounter in John Olsen’s Cabinet of Wonders.
 
John Olsen’s Cabinet of Wonders consists of six glass cabinets and a showcase on the floor each individual one containing a wide variety of objects that John Olsen has collected over many years mainly from nature. Some of the objects are leftovers from the rubbish dump or things found at flea markets. But the cabinets also contain medicinal specimens preserved in alcohol as well as ‘genuine’ art works created by John Olsen himself.
 
Among other things the cabinets contain half a brain from the old hospital in Tarm, a shrunken head from Ecuador, a fossilized mammoth tusk, a whole pencil case full of wishbones, a pair of old pants, strange branch nodes, several stuffed birds, a horse skull, walrus teeth, and much, much more. 
 
John Olsen has collected, selected and presented the objects in the Cabinet of Wonders according to certain systematic principles as if it were a museum. Thus, it extends a tradition originating with the cabinet of curiosities of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as the reliquaries of the Catholic Church.
 
But since John Olsen has collected, chosen and displayed the various objects on account of their aesthetic qualities and what stories they are able to tell, the Cabinet of Wonders is also a work of art in its own right. As a work of art, the Cabinet draws on a strong and important tradition of collage and assemblage aesthetics, which was founded in the early 20th century.
 
In the Cabinet of Wonders, John Olsen depicts nature’s decay and destructiveness, which at the same time is calling attention to and making death and fragility present – a prominent feature in the artist’s work. But Olsen is not merely focusing on the horrifying and sinister aspects of death, because he also finds beauty in death and decay. Just as death in nature is a necessary condition for the continuity of life, John Olsen awakens the dead objects and turns them into art.