Beautiful art collected by colonizing capitalists is now public’s

| September 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

THE WORLD Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector’s Cabinet and the Politics of Possession — an exhibition just opened at LACMA. Photo © Museum Associates / LACMA

Opened last month at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and continuing through March 3, 2024, is a fascinating exhibit of more than 300 artworks, animal and mineral specimens, scientific instruments, books and maps — initially collected by wealthy people across Europe, for their private pleasure, in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The exhibition is titled “The World Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector’s Cabinet and the Politics of Possession.”

Those wealthy people established “collector’s cabinets” that they shared with family and friends. Today, their fascinating and beautiful objects and paintings largely are in the hands of museums open to the public.

One, two or three ways to view the exhibition

Just because the exhibition was curated with a political / social point of view, rather than just an art-oriented viewpoint, does not mean that the exhibition has to be experienced in any one way.

Saying of her curatorial creation, which includes substantial narration available via personal mobile devices and in-gallery printed handouts, Diva Zumaya, LACMA’s Assistant Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, observes: “[W]e hope to shine a light on how the interconnected legacies of capitalism and colonialism … continue to this day and how the human and environmental devastation that they enact affect not only museums and the collections they care for, but the entire world.”

Zumaya’s full concept can be experienced by listening to the narration while looking at the beautiful objects and paintings.

A second approach might be to just listen to the narration and/or read the essays and entries by Zumaya in the Collator publication “The World Made Wondrous” that is available for purchase in the museum store. Just skip taking any looks at the art.

A third way to view the exhibition is just that – skip the narrative and look at the art. There is much extraordinary beauty on view, including 31 of LACMA’s 37 Dutch paintings given to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Carter.

PAINTINGS AND OBJECTS comprise a portion of the wondrous world on display.

Collector’s cabinet

The World Made Wondrous assembles a fictional 17th-century Dutch collector’s cabinet, a type of collection that included both art and natural specimens from around the world. The wealthy collectors of 450 (plus or minus) years ago included physicians, merchants, powerful politicians and others. Encyclopedic museums, including LACMA, are heirs to the tradition of the collector’s cabinet. This particular exhibition aims to provide an immersive exploration of the economic and political structures that laid the groundwork for today’s museums.

It also showcases works of exceptional beauty created by great artists (including Mother Nature).

Bouquet of Flowers on a Ledge, 1619, Oil on Copper, LACMA, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Carter.          Photo ©
         Museum Associates / LACMA

Curator Diva Zumaya

Diva Zumaya is Assistant Curator, European Painting and Sculpture, at LACMA, where she has served in that position since 2020. She is the author of an essay on Dutch still life historiography and the legacies of capitalism that will be included in an edited volume of essays in 2024 to be published by academic publisher Brill, founded in the Netherlands in 1683.

EXHIBITION CURATOR Diva Zumaya explains her approach at a press preview.








EXHIBITION LABEL for Heraldic Panels (above and to the right) on display in the World Made Wondrous exhibition at LACMA.








Another exhibition

Also just opened (and available through Jan. 21, 2024), in the second floor galleries of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) building at LACMA, is the new exhibition Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction.” The exhibition of colorful fabric objects explores abstract art and woven textiles over the past century. LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan says of this exhibition of more than 150 works: “Over the years, LACMA has presented exhibitions that examine the intersections of our encyclopedic collections. While weaving is often associated with the museum’s Decorative Arts and Design department and Costume and Textiles department, there are strong connections between artists working with this medium and the Modern and Contemporary collection. This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to present this interconnected art history with a refreshed lens.”

TEXTILES among the many on display at the Woven Histories exhibition in BCAM’s second floor gallery.

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Category: Entertainment

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