Four intriguing installations have gone on display at the National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall. Inspired by the Renaissance idea of Cabinets of Curiosity, these eccentric pieces of furniture showcase previously unseen objects from the collection.
The work of opera and theatre designer, Gary McCann, the four mysterious cabinets are inspired by the history of the hall, and invite onlookers to peer inside and discover the collection within. They showcase many of the weird and wonderful items from the extensive collection housed at Felbrigg, assembled over the years by residents of the house whose exotic travels shaped this extraordinary family home.
The objects have travelled from the far corners of the world to Felbrigg, souvenirs of the Grand Tour which was undertaken by a number of family members and served as an educational rite of passage. From a brass Egyptian obelisk to a coffin bell, these items are rarely on show at Felbrigg and offer a glimpse into the travels of the family who collected them.
Mellissa Tadd, House Steward at Felbrigg Hall, said: “These cabinets are thought provoking and eclectic. The opportunity to showcase objects not normally on display is a wonderful advantage of both working with Gary McCann and the vast collection here at Felbrigg. Each cabinet sits harmoniously within its space, allowing the onlooker to discover small objects that under normal circumstances could easily be overlooked, but in these curious cabinets they have been housed in a way that amplifies their uniqueness. Full of creative riddles and symbols, they provide a new way to interpret the collection.”
Gary McCann is renowned for his inventive and theatrical approach to set and costume design, and his work focuses mostly on the creation of large scale new opera productions all over the world. This is his second collaboration with the National Trust. In April 2015, he was commissioned to create art installations in the 18th century follies at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.
Gary McCann said he was delighted to be part of the project: “It was thrilling to be given the opportunity to explore the cellars, attics and store cupboards of the hall and discover the fascinating relics of the people who have lived and worked here. I wanted to share with visitors this sense of exploration and offer them the chance to take part in their own Grand Tour as they move from room to room.”
This project is part of Trust New Art, a contemporary arts programme inspired by National Trust places and supported by a partnership with Arts Council England.
The house is open daily, with the installations on show in the Service Wing throughout 2018.