Curious Contraptions

Event has passed (Mon Nov 21, 2016 - Sun Jan 29, 2017)
Tuesday–Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday: Closed except select Monday holidays
Arts, Family
Claim this listing


This special exhibition features more than 20 charming and often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. Their whimsical characters are brought to life by intricate arrangements of cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms.

Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama that often reflects its maker’s dark and very British sense of humor. Exposed inner workings encourage visitors to investigate the low-tech mechanisms used to make these automata move. Additional exhibits offer a closer look at the most common simple mechanisms.

The exhibition also features sketches from the notebooks of leading automata artist Paul Spooner, as well as photographs of his delightfully cluttered workshop.

Most of the automata on display are on loan from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, British advocates of this peculiar art form for more than 30 years.


  1. Exploratorium
    Pier 15, San Francisco, CA