The audacity to explore the world gave rise to the first European collectors of primitive art. From the 15th century onwards, the spirit of adventure led them to discover new knowledge, sensitivities and ways of life, throughout the four corners of the globe.
Men and women acted on these impulses, setting off on adventure on foot, horseback or ship, while many others were content to travel from their armchairs, searching through the shelves of the library. The quest to transcend frontiers towards an unknown and initiatory beyond seems to have always been – and always will be a human caracteristic.
Added to this spirit of adventure is a thirst for knowledge and development. In the period known as the “Age of Enlightenment”, religion was gradually losing ground to science and rationalism. The “why” and “how” became ideological sources, opening up new avenues to understanding the self through the study of the other.
Great expeditions were commissioned by kings, state institutions and illuminated individuals. These people rich or poor, set out to conquer the unknown braving terrible suffering. Many remained at the bottom of the sea, or fell under the onslaught of animal and human predators, and let’s not forget those who succumbed to disease and extreme climatic conditions. Information on collections, explanations of uses, origins and manufacture became essential and are now meticulously recorded and catalogued.
The “Adventure & Erudition” exhibition explores these two themes, based on the premise that works of art from “far-off lands” – specifically Oceania and the Arctic – are in them selves a source of wonder and, by extension, a font of exploration and knowledge.
In other words, we’ll be paying particular attention to the places and stories of collecting, but also to the reasons for the objects existence, both in their source cultures, and in the way these works are welcomed, integrated and appropriated in European culture. We will narrate some of the stories of encounters between objects and collectors – both animate and inanimate.press release