Professor Beneš’ Cabinet of Mysteries

Museum Montanelli 9/6/2021 – 20/3/2022

Dear friends of the Fine Arts,  

We have prepared an exhibition for you under the title of The Mysterious Cabinet of Professor Beneš, which was to be ceremonially opened on 1st October 2020.  Please see the press release (below).

As you know, Museum Montanelli welcomes every live discussion on projects that are in progress, organises guided tours, get-togethers with friends and visitors from abroad and from allied institutions.  We also do tours for school groups from elementary and secondary schools, universities, as well as the art schools who come to us regularly.

After a long deliberation we have decided to open the exhibition to the general public only after the end of the threat of the pandemic within the community.  The narrow spaces and cabins of the museum do not allow us to maintain the required distancing.  We want to keep you protected and we do not wish to countenance any risk of Covid19 infection.   

This makes us all the more keen for the time when we will be able to enjoy mutual proximity in a carefree way and admire the exhibits of the neurosurgeon Professor Beneš and other works of art and videos from our collection.  We are looking forward to the time when Professor Beneš will pay a personal visit to the museum with lectures on his activities and his passion for collecting, or when Doctor Häckel, who wrote the entomological texts, will talk with us about the specimens in the exhibition.   

Meanwhile we will use this time to prepare the catalogue, to film a virtual tour of the exhibition and its documentation.  All the while you will be able to keep in touch with the articles and texts relating to the exhibition via Facebook so as to heighten your interest in the mysterious cabinet in Museum Montanelli.  Perhaps you will find out something about the life of Maybugs, Anthaxia, Lamprodila or ground beetles, or even about the magic strength of the  drugs and natural products on display.  From time to time we will allow you to peep inside the little mysterious cave lined with moss, where you will be able to spot a variety of Protozoa in the pool…  

We sincerely look forward to when we will see one another once again.  

Dadja Altenburg-Kohl and the team from Museum Montanelli

Professor Beneš’ Cabinet of Mysteries


“Because man is not the highest thing in the Universe”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1141a


The exhibition’s ambition is to evoke astonishment at the blurred boundaries between ostensibly incompatible objects which, ultimately, jointly constitute one single sensory whole.  The works of art and collectors’ items on display should serve as inspiration to the viewer on the way to a realisation of the deeper connection and bond between nature, art and the micro- and macrocosm, or to an inner flight of imagination and individual interpretation, and so offer everyone their own particular Theatrum Mundi.  

The infinite variability of nature, its beauty and system of codification, whilst also its elemental potential for destruction and indomitable expansionary vitality, is perceived by many to be the work of God which has forever fascinated mankind.  It was and continues to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration (not only) for artists who have attempted to capture the elusive moments of its transformations, professing to be beguiled by its magnificence.  One of these, neurosurgeon Professor Vladimír Beneš, has lent the exhibition his entomological collection, which is to be in dialogue with other art works, videos and documentation from the Museum Montanelli collection.  

By the museum’s entrance, in its lower part, we come upon the purely imaginative, delicate and nature-entwined “inner” works of Anna Zemánková and Roman Franta that are housed in a separate cabinet.  From an adjacent landing we then look into a green dark cave where we can observe a video by the multi-media artist Jakub Nepraš, the refined conceptual work of the Japanese artist Keiko Koitabashi and the painting by Daniel Pešta with his video-art “Out of Nowhere“. We can also see here works by Paulina Skavová, Margot Margot, Jan Švankmajer and Cornelia Renz. In the upper, central part of the museum, where we step into the private collection of Professor Beneš, we find the conceptual artists Anke Röhrscheid and her work “Blood“, Luboš Plný with the work “My Nose is Bleeding“ and also a small collection of mildly amusing art objects.  All the artefacts are from the Museum Montanelli collection. This unusual composition is complemented by a seven-minute video of a brain operation lent by kind permission of both neurosurgeon Professor Beneš and his patients.  The Professor’s virtually complete lifelong entomological collection is to be seen in the main areas.  

A collection of nature products, drugs, plants and other items, including a microscope and documentation for “Wunderkabinett”, is installed in the museum’s lower part.  In the museum’s small cinema you may then watch the documentary film by Pavel Štingl on the workings of Professor Beneš’s neurosurgical department in the Military University Hospital of Prague.  

This exhibition also aims to act as an encouragement or invitation to the viewer to realise what is our common human desire to blend not just with nature itself but also with everything that is beyond us, maybe with the universe that by its nature surpasses man.  We are joined to the cosmos, we are part of it, our genes are only a negligible particle of a higher order. Multimedia objects, works of art and natural or obscure artefacts establish a mystery of perceptions and projection of the most sophisticated organ in our body, our brain.   

The exhibition has been organised in honour of Professor Vladimír Beneš.  


Other artists:
Özlem Akin, Roman Franta, Xénia Hoffmeisterová, Keiko Koitabashi, Margot Margot, Jakub Nepraš, Daniel Pešta, Luboš Plný, Cornelia Renz, Anke Röhrscheid, Paulina Skavová, Jan Švankmajer, Anna Zemánková, Jitka Štenclová

Exhibition curator, text: Dadja Altenburg Kohl

9. 6. 2021 – 20. 3. 2022 (extended)

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