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Oakland Museum of California Presents a Site-Specific Exhibition by Conceptual Artist Mark Dion 9/11/10 Through 3/6/11

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Scott Horton
[email protected] 

For his latest project, conceptual artist Mark Dion has embarked on an unprecedented expedition through the Oakland Museum of California’s art, history, and natural science collections to create multiple site-specific installations and interventions throughout its art galleries, drawing upon the overlooked orphans, curiosities and treasures from the collections. The Marvelous Museum includes objects that date back to OMCA’s predecessor institutions and, while they often lie outside of OMCA’s California focus, still tell a rich and interesting story of how museum collections are assembled over time and how curators and museum visitors engage in an often invisible and silent dialog about the nature of art, history and science. OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman will curate this first major West Coast presentation of Dion’s work, which will be accompanied by a publication by Chronicle Books in partnership with The Believer magazine. The book itself, like many of Dion’s artworks, is a compendium of oddities and discoveries featuring an in-depth interview with the artist by Lawrence Weschler, photographs by David Maisel, and writings by a range of cultural and art historians. The exhibition opens September 11, 2010, and continues through March 6, 2011. For more information, visit

The Marvelous Museum comprises two discrete installations and 18 interventions for which Dion has selected a variety of objects, exploring the Museum’s collections over a period of two years and drawing on a pool of close to 2 million items in storage. Dion refers to these items as "orphans" because they are "objects that no longer fit the museum’s mission or curatorial mandate, which, as times have changed, left lots of things high and dry." The objects he has chosen present what he calls a "comical/critical foil" that illuminates the history of OMCA in visually and philosophically compelling ways.

The interventions explore the nature of museums and public presentation, the history and purposes of collections and exhibitions, and are intended to create an internal dialog in visitors as they contemplate thematic juxtapositions of art, history and science. Examples include surprising and intriguing placements. such as a large stone coin from the Island of Yap in the art of the Gold Rush gallery amid 19th century landscape paintings and daguerreotypes; a taxidermy baby giraffe in the California People Gallery surrounded by figures and portraits by Viola Frey, Dorothea Lange, David Park, Carrie Mae Weems and others; a drawer of police batons and Republican campaign materials in the Counter Culture Gallery, and more.

In one dedicated gallery, Dion will also create an installation of three iconic museum staff offices that reveal the theories and mechanics of how museums operate. These vignettes include a 19th century natural sciences curator’s office filled with unusual biological specimens, art and paraphernalia; a history registrar’s office from 1976, the year of the US bicentennial celebration and a point at which America re-assessed its history; and a contemporary art curator’s office from which curator René de Guzman will work in public view during the exhibition. In this space, the environs of museum staff that usually create exhibitions themselves become the presentations.

About Mark Dion

Mark Dion is known for making art out of fieldwork, incorporating elements of biology, archaeology, ethnography, and the history of science, and applying to his artwork methodologies generally used for pure science. Traveling the world and collaborating with a wide range of scientists, artists, and museums, Dion has excavated ancient and modern artifacts from the banks of the Thames in London, established a marine life laboratory using specimens from New York’s Chinatown, and created a contemporary cabinet of curiosities exploring natural and philosophical hierarchies. Dion has a longstanding interest in exploring how ideas about cultural and natural history are visualized and how they circulate in society, in particular through museums. Dion’s work has been presented at many U.S. and international museums and galleries, including solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver; Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and Deutsches Museum, Bonn. Dion has been commissioned to create works for Aldrich Museum of Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut; the Tate Gallery, London; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


The Marvelous Museum: A Project by Mark Dion at Oakland Museum of California

WHAT: Mark Dion: The Marvelous Museum  A site-specific exhibition drawing on OMCA’s art and history collections
WHERE: Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607
WHEN: September 11, 2010–March 6, 2011. OMCA hours:  Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am–5 pm; Fridays 11 am–9pm; Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
ADMISSION: $12 adults, $9 students and seniors with valid ID, $6 youth ages 9-17, under age 8 and members free. .

For more information, visit

For more information and visuals, please contact:
Scott Horton
[email protected]