“Il sarcofago di Spitzmaus e altri tesori” (Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures) is an exhibition project conceived by Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf. Organized in collaboration with the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the exhibition features 537 artworks and objects selected by film director Wes Anderson (b. Houston, 1969) and illustrator, designer and writer Juman Malouf (b. Beirut, 1975) from 12 collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and from 11 departments of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. The title of the exhibition pays homage to one of the exhibits, coffin of a Spitzmaus, an Egyptian wooden box with a mummified shrew from the 4th century BC.
“Il sarcofago di Spitzmaus e altri tesori” explores the reasons behind the decision to create a collection and the ways in which it is housed, presented and experienced. Looking back to the past and drawing inspiration on the model of the Wunderkammer, the exhibition challenges traditional museum canons, proposing new relations between the institutions and their collections, and between their professional figures and their public. The choice of exhibited works, based on a non-academic, interdisciplinary approach, not only illustrates Anderson and Malouf’s deep knowledge of the two museums, but also reveals unexpected parallels and resonances between the works included in the project and the creative universes of the two artists.
The exhibition narrative is formed by groups of works: from green objects to portraits of children, from miniatures to timepieces, from boxes to wooden objects, from portraits of noblemen and common people to natural subjects like the garden as well as meteorites and animals presented as scientific exhibits or artistic depictions.
“Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures” was presented at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna from November 2018 to April 2019. The Milan exhibition is a second version with a larger display area and a greater number of exhibits. The original layout of rooms and vitrines, conceived by the two artist-curators with Itai Margula (Margula Architects) as a treasure chest, has been transported to the exhibition space of Fondazione Prada as a ready-made. The exhibition extends across the ground floor of the Podium to create a setting inspired by the Italian garden, with the presence of elements evoking hedges and allegorical pavilions typical of Renaissance garden. The main historical reference for this new conceptual and visual layout is Ambras Castle in Innsbruck, the palace designed in 1570 by the architect Giovanni Battista Guarienti, after the great Italian courts, to house the collections of Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg and his wife Philippine Welser. Today Ambras is part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and is considered the oldest museum in the world.
The project is completed by an artist’s book published by Fondazione Prada. The publication takes the form of a box including drawings, reproductions and various materials, and elaborates the idea of the portable museum and the personal collection, referring to Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte en-valise as its inspiration.