Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, including Arman, Peter Blake, Hanne Darboven, Edmund de Waal, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Dr Lakra, Sol LeWitt, Martin Parr, Jim Shaw, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Andy Warhol, Pae White and Martin Wong/Danh Vo. Their collections range from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts, and natural history specimens. Curated by Lydia Yee, the exhibition presents a selection of objects from the collections of the artists alongside at least one key example of their work to provide insight into their inspirations, influences, motives, and obsessions. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is on view from 12 February through 25 May 2015.
While many of the participating artists are recognised internationally, their collections are often private and less well known, and the majority have never been seen in the UK. Individual collections include: African art and samurai armour owned by Arman; examples of British vernacular culture from Peter Blake; the eclectic contents of two rooms from Hanne Darbovens family home in Hamburg; Edmund de Waals Japanese netsuke; Damien Hirsts skulls, taxidermy and medical models; Indian paintings from Howard Hodgkin; Dr. Lakras record covers and scrapbooks, Sol LeWitts Japanese prints, modernist photographs and music scores; 20th century British postcards and Soviet space dog memorabilia from Martin Parr; Jim Shaws thrift store paintings; Hiroshi Sugimotos 18th century French and Japanese anatomical prints and books; Andy Warhols cookie jars; more than 1,000 scarves and other textiles by the American designer Vera Neumann from Pae White; and a collection of thousands of objects assembled by Martin Wong and subsequently acquired by Danh Vo.
The objects from each collection vary in numbers from less than 20 to more than 3,000 items. They are installed in separate spaces within the gallery reflecting each artists aesthetic style, display techniques and live-work environment. The exhibition has been designed by the London based practice Dyvik Kahlen Architects.
Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican Art Gallery
, said: What a joy to have brought together the treasured private collections of the fourteen artists in Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. The thrill of collecting is something we can all relate to, and I am sure visitors will enjoy this deeply personal and endlessly fascinating show.
Throughout history artists have collected objects for professional and private reasons as studio props, sources of inspiration, references for their work, personal mementos and even as investment. Collections have traditionally been amassed with the objective of building and transmitting knowledge. Artists too share this aim, but towards more personal ends. Unlike museums, artists do not typically take a scholarly approach to collecting, nor do they seek to assemble comprehensive and representative collections. Reflecting personal interests and obsessions, their acquisitions are usually made in tandem with their own work and on a visual basis. While many artists make direct use of their collections for research and study purposes sometimes incorporating individual items into their own work others keep them under wraps or in storage. Some artists are connoisseurs, carefully shaping their collections and selling objects to make new purchases, and others accumulate hoards of things, never letting anything go.