Indeed, the exhibition shows how the diorama, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures, either in miniature or as a large-scale museum exhibit”, intrigues contemporary artists. Count in Anselm Kiefer, Tatiana Trouvé, Mathieu Mercier and Cao Fei among those who are stretching the parameters in their own unique ways.

This extensive exhibition opens with 18th-century works. Among these are collages on painted backgrounds resembling encased theatre-set maquettes, three-dimensional tableaux of saints in painted scenery by artists hired by the Catholic Church, and natural history exhibits of stuffed animals. They all predated Louis Daguerre's invention of the diorama as a semi-transparent canvas behind which natural or artificial lights created atmospheric effects.

Dulce Pinzón, Nostalgia, Historias del Paraíso series, 2011, Impression, 76,2 x 101,6 cm, Courtesy K-Echo Photo, Galéria Patricia Conde (Mexico) et H Gallery (Paris)
Certainly, when Hiroshi Sugimoto visited the American Museum of Natural History, he became fascinated by the dioramas of stuffed animals that were obviously fake yet possessed an otherworldly quality. This inspired his diorama series in the mid-1990s, one of which depicts gorillas in a lush landscape, earning Sugimoto the reputation of capturing the uncanny.

Trouvé's 2007 piece explores the voyeuristic aspect of the diorama, bringing together mirrors, suitcases, fans, brooms and other elements in an elaborate mise-en-scène. Viewed differently from multiple perspectives, it teases the viewer about what's visible versus what isn't, tugging you in yet leaving you perplexed.

Mark Dion, Detail of 'Paris Streetscape' (2017), Mixed media, Photo: Anna Sansom
The crowd-puller is Mercier's 2012 showcase of two axolotls (although when we visited, only one was there) in an aquarium encased in an earth-filled, neon-lit cube. Known in Mexico as a 'walking fish', the axolotl is an aquatic-and-gilled amphibian. Encompassing a zoo-like quality, this piece with living creatures sees the diorama's natural history dimension coming full circle.

Mathieu Mercier, Sans titre (couple d’axolotls), 2012, Showcase, neon light, earth, aquarium, water, couple of axolotls, 219,5 x 180 x 330 cm, Exhibition view of Sublimations, Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, Photo: André Morin / le Crédac, Courtesy of the artist and le Crédac. © ADAGP, Paris 2017
Jean-Paul Favand, Naguère Daguerre I, 2012, View of the canvas illuminated from the front. 19th century painted canvas, luminous installation and scenography, 270 x 410 cm. Photo: Jean Mulatier. Courtesy Jean Paul Favand, Paris
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gorilla, 1994, Gelatin silver print, 38,7 x 58,8 cm, Courtesy of the artist
Mark Dion, Detail of 'Paris Streetscape' (2017), Mixed media, Photo: Anna Sansom
Mark Dion, Paris Streetscape (2017), Mixed media, Photo: Anna Sansom
Tatiana Trouvé, Sans titre, 2007, Cement, plexiglass, formica, metal, leather, marble, bronze, wood, 300 x 610 x 421 cm, Photo: Daniele Resini Courtesy Galerie Johann König, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Gagosian Gallery, © ADAGP, Paris 2017
Caterina De Julianis, Santa Maria Maddalena in adorazione della croce, 1717, Polychrome wax, painted paper, glass, tempera on paper and other materials, 53,7 x 59 cm, Photo: Artefotografica, Rome. Courtesy Galleria Carlo Virgilio & C, Rome
Charles Matton, L’Ombre du peintre II, 2002, Mixed media, 68 x 59 x 62 cm, Private collection, Photo: Tessa Angus / All Visual Arts / Estate Charles Matton, © ADAGP, Paris 2017