Enlarged flowers of papier mâché, velvet toadstools, lifelike snails of glass: collector George Loudon is fascinated by the beauty of 19th-century scientific teaching models. At the exhibition Surreal Science – Wunderkammer of Art and Science, 250 objects from his collection will be shown. The Italian artist Salvatore Arancio prised them from their original function as teaching models and presents them as a contemporary art installation, making use of sound, light, film and his own ceramic sculptures.
George Loudon (New York, 1942) came under the spell of scientific objects when he saw the splendid glass flowers by glass artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. With a background as a collector of contemporary art, he immediately recognized the beauty and the mystery of these uncommon objects, originally intended to be a means of learning more about nature. The glass jellyfish, magic lantern slides with extinct animals or the stuffed toad he owns: they are works of art in their own right. His collection now comprises many objects made of a variety of materials: plaster, velvet, ivory, glass and paper. They are casts, minerals, illustrated books, prints, drawings and anatomical models.
Artist Salvatore Arancio (Catania, Italy, 1974) is fascinated by nature and by the human obsession to understand it. He selected 250 objects from Loudon’s collection and combined them with sound, light, film and his own objects, putting them in an entirely new perspective. A mysterious and wondrous installation is the result, a fascinating cross-fertilization of art and science at the oldest museum in the Netherlands.
Surreal Science was shown in the spring of 2018 at Whitechapel Gallery in London. Thanks to a collaboration with Whitechapel, this Wunderkammer of Art and Science will be on at Teylers Museum from 17 February until 3 September 2023.
At the Book Cabinet, Realistic Science will be on from 21 January until 23 July. This exhibition shows why scientific models and illustrations were so important to research and education in the 19th and early 20th centuries, on the basis of books from the historical library of Teylers Museum.