We thought, given that it’s a Friday, we would end the week with something light hearted, but thoroughly interesting and entertaining – and of course museum related! Recently, acclaimed modern-day auteur director, Wes Anderson, was given free rein to curate an exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Austria’s largest art museum. The museum has taken the decision not to acquire any further collections, so is looking for new ways to entice visitors to come and experience its trove of objects. Wes Anderson’s foray into the world of curating is part of a series of artist-curated exhibitions, with Anderson curating Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and other Treasures together with his wife, Juman Malouf.
The exhibition, which opened towards the end of last year, is best described as “a collection of affectionate misfits”. Anderson and Malouf completely ignored all of the museum’s larger, more impressive pieces, and instead concentrated on smaller curiosities, many of which had been largely neglected, going unnoticed in the bowels of the museum for decades. The exhibition takes it name from one such curiosity, a mummified shrew (spitzmaus) in a tiny 4th century BC tomb, about the size of a large shoe box.
Anderson’s abstract approach is said to have driven museum staff crazy, with the film director ignoring all the accepted rules of curating an exhibition. Commenting on the experience, one senior curator said that they would receive an email from Anderson asking, “Do you have a list of green objects? Could you send us a list of everything you have that is yellow?”. Their systems don’t have colour categories so manual searches had to be carried out. The work was taxing, but is said to have had a welcome side effect, something perhaps worth noting for other museums and curators:
“It leveled the usual hierarchies. Several staff members said it resulted in new revelations. They just had to ‘learn to unlearn’ their ways of working.” Kate Brown, news.artnet.com
Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures from the Kunsthistorisches Museum is on view at the Kunsthistorisches Museum until the 28th April 2019. But for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be traveling to Europe anytime soon, you can watch this short video which gives you a taste of Anderson and Malouf’s curatorial madness. Kate Brown’s article on news.artnet.com also provides some wonderful insight.