Virginia Curiosity Shop
a Mark Dion Project for UVA | 2016 & 2017
The Virginia Curiosity Shop is a large-scale temporary public artwork sited on the Arts Grounds of the University of Virginia. The work consists of an impeccably crafted, aged vernacular structure that gives the impression of having been located on the site for decades. The modest building, resembling countless structures dotting the rural landscape of the state, appears as an orphaned vestigial building miraculously untouched by the modern era. With its diminutive stature, tin roof, multi-paned windows, and weathered gray siding, the building appears humble and charming. Nothing on the exterior prepares visitors for the visual feast they will encounter when they peer through its low windows and ascend the porch to its viewing vestibule to see the building’s interior. The vision of the interior greeting the public is one of shocking material excess, wonder, and beauty.
In 2016, Mark Dion served as the Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence with the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia. His exhibition at the UVA’s Ruffin Gallery blurred boundaries between art, archaeology, and history for a decidedly playful take on a natural history museum. His approach is inspired by the “cabinet of curiosities” – a tradition of displaying artifacts gathered worldwide, popularized during the Renaissance. “Our understanding and relationship with the natural world shifts dramatically, and you can chart that shift by examining how we have materialized exhibitions,” Dion said. “Like a historian, I am looking back and using images, displays and sculptures to understand how we’ve changed our notion of the natural world.”