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Alghero. Grotte di Nettuno, Sala dell'Organo from: Postcards from the World Beneath. Courtesy of Gerhard Stein and Thomas Demand

Alghero. Grotte di Nettuno, Sala dell'Organo from: Postcards from the World Beneath. Courtesy of Gerhard Stein and Thomas Demand

Art - Small Collections Room

The Small Collections Room

Postcards from the World Beneath: the collection of Gerhard Stein, curated by Thomas Demand

15 Apr 2011 - 26 Jun 2011

The artist Thomas Demand has curated a selection of postcards of grottoes for our Small Collections Room, filling each cabinet with multiple images of curious subterranean spaces. Grottoes are a continual source of fascination; in literature, grottoes and caves are often linked to the deeper issues of the human psyche, their interior landscapes reflecting the recesses of the unconscious mind. The grotto is one of the most ancient forms of human dwelling. Often thought of as spiritual or sacred places, grottoes were used by early faith groups as places of worship or retreat. Aspects of Gothic architecture take their cue from the natural phenomena of stalactites, stalagmites and calcareous incrustations. The mysterious ‘world beneath’ depicted in the postcards finds it echo in the ‘hidden space’ of the Small Collections Room, with its ornate antique cabinets and dark paneled interior, designed by the artist Pablo Bronstein. Grottoes also chime with Nottingham’s own underground history. It is noted for the 400 caves – once dwellings, storerooms, hiding places and even factories – that you can still see in parts of the city. Demand discovered the collection of Gerhard Stein – a computer engineer from south Germany who has amassed over 50,000 postcards of grottoes over his 30 years of collecting– during a period of research for his recent project, Grotto (2006). Demand’s artistic process involves building intricate and life-like models of significant locations, mostly from paper and card. These are photographed, and then the model is destroyed, leaving a life-sized colour image of a very realistic yet fictive scene. Grotto was inspired by a postcard of a Mallorcan grotto which Demand has never visited, sent to the artist by a friend. Stein, an avid speleologist, sometimes does not even enter the grotto itself on his various trips, but only the kiosk in front of it. The Cabinets We commissioned the artist Pablo Bronstein to create a 21st century take on a "cabinet of curiosities" or wunderkammer - the root of the modern museum. Four ornate cabinets, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries, have been given their own space off The Study, designed by Bronstein and our architects Caruso St John. These intricate places of discovery reflect Bronstein's interest in Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture. They also have an affinity with contemporary art's concern with collecting and display. The content's of each cabinet form miniture exhibitions, curated by artists, writers and cultural commentators.

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