Town mouse visits an exhibition

I can’t say that the iceberg of David Chipperfield’s Turner Contemporary does much for Margate’s late-Georgian townscape, but it’s a different matter when you go in. Until September 15, the gallery is showing ‘Curiosity’, a show inspired by the cabinets of curiosity in which gentlemen collectors would keep examples of whatever fascinated them-a concept that, according to the catalogue, can also be applied to the ‘capricious individualism and wayward thinking’ of contemporary art. You never know what to expect.

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Three Leonardo drawings appear beside an overstuffed walrus, some ivory anatomical models of pregnant women, the exquisite glass models of sea creatures made by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka and Surrealist Roger Caillois’s collection of semiprecious stones, whose patterns suggest landscapes.

Turner is present in the ornithological studies that he made at Farnley Hall, North Yorkshire. What to make of the tiny pictures created in the early 20th century by Alfie West, who developed a means of splitting human hairs? No space to describe the modern works, many intriguing, but I do love Seat Assignment, camera-phone images made on aeroplanes by Nina Katchadourian: they include self-portraits in the manner of Dutch Old Masters, with headdresses contrived from whatever she could find in the lavatory.

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