The practice of maintaining ‘cabinets of curiosities’ evolved during the Renaissance and Baroque. Such cabinets were collectors’ rooms in which precious artworks (artificialia), rare phenomena of nature (naturalia), scientific instruments (scientifica), objects from strange worlds (exotica), and inexplicable items (mirabilia) were preserved. They reflected the standard of knowledge and view of the world at that time.
Berlin also had its Kunstkammer. Founded by Elector Joachim II (ruled 1535 – 1571) and almost completely destroyed during the Thirty Years War, it was rebuilt by Elector Friedrich Wilhelm and eventually found its home under Friedrich III in the newly expanded Stadtschloss (City Palace). Today the few remaining objects have been distributed around different museums that have become the successors to the cabinet of curiosities, albeit in a thematically differentiated way.
Our Wunderkammer reanimates this tradition in Berlin once more. It provides an insight into the past and manages to fulfil its original intention of some two to five centuries ago: to transport the visitor into a realm of sheer astonishment—whether by means of the legendary unicorn, ultimately exposed as the tusk of a narwhal, an amber mirror flooded with light fashioned from the “Gold of the North”, the coconut chalice that came into the possession of Alexander von Humboldt and which is adorned with images of Brazilian cannibals, preserved specimens of a Nile crocodile and a great blue turaco, or wooden cabinets that only reveal their mysteries to the curious eye.
The quality of the objects, numbering in excess of 200 from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, is unique and makes the Wunderkammer Olbricht one of the most important private collections of its kind.
The Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Munich, is responsible for the conception, the installation, and supervision of the Wunderkammer Olbricht.