“Orbis Terrarum”

Plantin-Moretus Museum

As curator Moritz Küng acknowledges in his catalogue preface, the relation between cartography and contemporary art is not a new theme. But what distinguishes “Orbis Terrarum: Ways of Worldmaking” from such predecessors as MOMA’s 1994 “Mapping” or the Stedelijk Museum/Wellington City Gallery’s 1996 “The World Over-Under Capricorn” is the place where it was presented: the former Officina Plantiniana printing house, which published the finest maps of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—including the very first world atlas, the Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570), which gave its name to the exhibition.

Site-specific works may date back to the earliest cave paintings, but site-specific exhibitions seem to be a distinctly contemporary phenomenon, reflecting fin de millénaire anxieties about both the realities of history and the limitations of conventional exhibition spaces. Here, some one

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