The exhibition will feature the history of opium as well as a stunning display of the sumptuous accouterments used to ingest opium in the Chinese manner: an exquisite array of opium pipes, lamps, pipe-bowls, as well as trays heavy with the more obscure examples of opium paraphernalia, such as bowl stands, needles, and opium and dross boxes. The highlight of the exhibition will be a life-size mock up of the interior of a luxurious opium den, complete with an ornately carved opium bed dating from the nineteenth century.
First time ever showcasing of opium paraphernalia!
Even up to the present day, opium continues to evoke the exotic — the word alone conjures up a mysterious world of swashbuckling adventure and misty romanticism. Opium was long regarded as a gift from the gods. There are descriptions in classical academia of the miraculous effects of this sap extracted from the pod of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). It was recognized throughout the world for its effectiveness against various illnesses and in the easing of physical pain, and as such offered the possibility of escape from the brutish reality of everyday life. A number of writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde, as well as artists, claimed to have drawn inspiration from visions they experienced while under the influence of opium. However this luxurious intoxication has its dark side - it irrevocably condemns those who carelessly give themselves up to it. The habit leads to dependency and once hooked there is generally no turning back. It is this, above all, that has created the negative reputation surrounding opium.
The exhibition is composed of the collections of Ferry M. Bertholet and Cees Hogendoorn. To accompany the exhibition, Mercatorfonds will publish the elaborately illustrated book “Opium, Art and History of a Lost Ritual”, ISBN 978 906153 7359, € 49,50.