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Contemporary art

Western art

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The return (a cosmological cabinet for New South Wales)



Mark Dion

United States of America

28 Aug 1961 -


“While young Australia was a territory of voracious import, requiring much from industrial Europe, it [was] also a prodigious exporter not merely of agricultural products but also of knowledge in the form of natural and cultural wonders. The disciplines of biology, geology and anthropology each extensively mined Australia to develop their cohesive world view. Indeed advances in theories such as evolution or plate tectonics would have been greatly stifled without the Australian example. Obviously not all the specimens from the colony were processed in a benign manner.

I intend to reverse the trend of the one way flow of material from the colonies to Europe experience by Naturalists world over. I shall send to the Art Gallery of New South Wales a number of packages from a wide variety of locations. Each package will take its place in a cosmological assemblage rooted in the classical traditions taxonomy. I shall not however send natural materials. The wise and strict Australian laws regarding the importation of organic matter shall be respected. Only stand-ins, representations of nature will be sent. Each package will be placed on the shelf in relation to the symbolic value of its contents.”
Mark Dion, 2008

Cabinetry: Mark O'Ryan,




Media category


Materials used

Jarrah bookcase, unopened posted packages, drawing


221.0 x 274.3 x 38.1 cm bookcase

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Mervyn Horton Bequest Fund 2008


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mark Dion

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history