About the Exhibition

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) invites you on a journey through time and space into the world of mysterious discoveries that reveal European collectors’ fascination with exotic animals, plants, minerals and art objects unknown in the West until a few hundred years ago.

“The Cabinets of Curiosities. From the Natural Sciences to the Art of Nature. Collections from France and Hong Kong” exhibition from 25 May to 19 August is presented by CityU Exhibition Gallery in partnership with Le French May Arts Festival.

The event will introduce Hong Kong audiences to over 250 natural and artificial artefacts from 10 museums, galleries and private collections. Thanks to the exceptional generosity of La Maison Deyrolle, founded in 1831 and itself a living repository of the French cabinets, and of the Musée du Vivant – AgroParisTech, whose collections also date back to the early 19th Century, CityU is able to exhibit these collections for the first time in Hong Kong.

“I am very proud that CityU has the opportunity to work once again with Le French May to produce an exhibition of outstanding cultural and social significance,” said Professor Way Kuo, CityU President. “‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ enables communities on one side of the globe to learn about other cultures, ethnicities, wildlife and plants thousands of miles away.”

“Cabinets of Curiosities” were the predecessors of museums, and were actual cabinets or small studies in which rulers and wealthy owners stored both precious religious, royal and valuable items as well as unusual specimens from the natural world. Such artefacts were brought back to Europe during 16th, 17th and 18th centuries by ocean-going expeditions intent on exploring the “new” continents of Asia, the Americas, Africa and Oceania. Their beauty, strangeness, and rarity invested these objects with great value and their owners displayed them as “curios” in richly decorated cabinets to the delight of their guests.

Collectors sought to recreate a microcosm of the universe in these cabinets. They amassed natural plant and animal specimens, acquired mechanical devices and rare artistic objects, and purchased foreign artefacts.

“These cabinets were also the site of serious scholarly and scientific investigations that were published in encyclopaedias, histories and collection catalogues. There the study of nature went hand-in-hand with the study of the arts and letters. These early scholars and scientists laid the foundations for what later became the academic disciplines of the social and natural sciences,” said Dr Isabelle Frank, Chief Curator and Director of CityU Exhibition Gallery.

The cabinets exerted a spell well into the last century with artists such as Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, whose pieces appear in the exhibition, exploring the relationship between human and natural creations in all their forms. Similarly, the works of more contemporary artists, from Damien Hirst to Jean-Michel Othoniel and Professor Jeffrey Shaw, Chair Professor of CityU’s School of Creative Media, are themselves curios or even miniature cabinets.

The exhibition is divided into five sections: (i) Cabinets of Curiosities – a Brief History; (ii) Maritime Expeditions and the Collecting of Exotica; (iii) The Musée du Vivant – AgroParisTech: From Amateur Collections to Discoveries in the Natural Sciences; (iv) The Maison Deyrolle Cabinet of Curiosities: Nature Art Education and (v) Cabinets of Curiosities and Contemporary art.


「『藏珍閣』——由自然科學到大自然藝術 珍藏來自法國、香港」展覽由城大展覽館及法國五月藝術節合辦,展期由5月25日至8月19日。






展覽亦探討藏珍閣的影響力如何延續至上世紀,如薩爾瓦多 • 達利、喬治 • 德 • 基里科、曼 • 雷與讓 • 考克多等藝術家,以不同形式的作品探索人類與大自然的關係;當代藝術家包括達米恩 • 赫斯特、讓 • 米歇爾 • 奧松爾、城大創意媒體學院邵志飛講座教授,亦為展覽帶來現代版奇珍異寶、甚至小型藏珍閣。

展覽分為五部分:(i) 「藏珍閣」─ 簡史;(ii) 航海探險與奇異珍藏;(iii) 巴黎高科農業學院生命科學博物館:從業餘珍藏到自然科學探索;(iv) 戴羅勒標本屋的「藏珍閣」:自然、藝術、教育;和 (v)藏珍閣與當代藝術。