A medical doctor and art collector from Essen, Germany, Thomas Olbricht, two years ago set up Me Collectors Room, a contemporary art venue in Berlin which, like La Maison Rouge, hosts temporary exhibitions.
The Olbricht collection, one of the biggest in Germany, comprises in excess of 2,500 works, a selection of which is on permanent show at Me Collectors Room. This is the first time the collection has travelled to France.
The Olbricht collection is remarkable for its scope, as it covers a period of five hundred years from the 16th to the 21st centuries and takes in a huge diversity of media and genres, from engravings by Albrecht Dürer, Martin Schongauer and Frans Pourbus to others by the Chapman brothers ; from photographs by Robert Capa to prints by Cindy Sherman and Vic Muniz ; from paintings of the Flemish and Italian schools to the work of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Allan McCollum ; from Renaissance ivory statuettes to bronzes by Thomas Schütte and wax sculptures by Berlinde de Bruyckere.
Thomas Olbricht’s journey through the history of art is guided by powerful themes. They inform his choices, run throughout the collection, and connect the works despite their different eras, media and statuses.
Death and its representation, vanity, religious faith, war, the fragility and beauty of the female body, and artists’ renderings of the strange and the marvellous, make this a unique and highly disconcerting collection.
One of its most striking objects is the reconstruction of a Kunst und Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities). A Renaissance precursor to the western concept of the museum, these cabinets are a collection of objects intended to further wonderment and knowledge, and an attempt to understand the world and how art, nature and science interrelate.
In Olbricht’s Wunderkammer, organic and mineral matter, intricate miniature anatomical models, unusual measuring and surgical instruments juxtapose artworks, particularly Memento Mori. The skulls and skeletons made indifferently from ivory, walnut shells, wood or coral, whose essential purpose, above and beyond their artistic prowess, is to remind Man of his mortality.
For the past twenty years, Thomas Olbricht has been compiling a collection of contemporary art which he shows alongside this historic collection.
*The exhibition takes its name from Laurent Grasso’s Memories of the Future (2010), one of the works in the Olbricht collection.