What, in your view, justifies the existence of a Kunstkammer in the Renaissance sense of the word in the modern world?
Georg Laue: We’re living in a time that is notable for the fleeting glance, everything is fast-paced and life is hectic. Nowadays there would scarcely seem to be world enough and time for collectors and connoisseurs to study and live with extraordinary, unique natural objects and art objects, especially since this takes up so much time. To me, this means the quality of life is depreciating. I hope to counteract the current trend here somewhat with my conception of a Kunstkammer. Part of learning about the realm of Kunstkammer and Wunderkammer is learning to see, getting involved with the objects and the world-view of a vanished era. I think the ability to empathize with other situations and eras, to view things from a different perspective in order to develop a certain aesthetic sensitivity, is an important human quality. Dealing with what is unique, with individual works of art, is more than ever, as I see it, a source of strength and inner resources.
The central idea underlying all Kunstkammer collections is comprehending the interplay of art and nature. That this interaction was very highly regarded in the Renaissance is reflected in the status artists enjoyed then. The education of princes even included learning a craft and there are quite a few objects turned at the lathe by royal hands. Collectors, both royalty and commoners, literally tried to grasp the world and to recreate it in designing their Kunstkammer.
Objects were made for these Kunstkammer by Europe’s leading artists and curiosities were imported, often by art agents, from faraway lands. At the same time, attempts were made at designing systems for ordering collections and amassing knowledge for understanding the world. The curiosity this approach entailed, the way the world was constituted then and the awe felt for it seem to have been lost somewhere along the way.
Nowadays here is such an information overload and a superficial idea of something is gleaned from secondary sources, which are quickly accessible so that hardly anyone takes the time now to internalise what is really there and has been handed down to us in the way of knowledge and skills. We often seem to be so absolutely sure, especially nowadays, that we understand all phenomena with the knowledge we have and could, therefore, solve all problems as quickly as possible. I think that is all fallacy. Even now many natural phenomena are unexplained, let alone the ability to reproduce the skilled craftsmanship that can be seen in the objects here. In this respect they are simply miraculous, mirabilia, which, as we have said, can be collected. Apart from the investment represented by the purchase of these objects, one can, therefore, acquire a certain quality of life in my Kunstkammer by gaining the possibility of creating a special, a unique ambience for oneself. That is part of what justifies the existence of my Kunstkammer. On the other hand, I view the Kunstkammer, as I’ve already said, as a venue, a sort of discussion forum or ‘reloading point’ for knowledge.