50 Glass Eyes, 1811-88 Collection of Hiroshi Sugimoto

50 Glass Eyes, 1811-88 Collection of Hiroshi Sugimoto

The Barbican is showcasing 14 artists’ collections, an exhibition that promises to be a veritable smorgasbord of all things eccentric, rare and curious. One that will no doubt encourage your inner hoarder even further as the 14 artists’ collections shown includes such treasures as Damien Hirst’s skulls, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s glass eyes, Martin Parr’s 20th Century British postcards and Soviet space dog memorabilia and Andy Warhol’s kitsch cookie jars.

Cookie jars formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol. Image courtesy the Movado Group

Cookie jars formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol. Image courtesy the Movado Group

Whether you just love ‘stuff’, are interested in how artists were inspired by their collections or are a collector yourself, the exhibition will be a feast for the imagination.

Sol LeWitt Autobiography, 1980 LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut USA © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014.

Sol LeWitt
Autobiography, 1980
LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut USA © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014.

This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present these fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, artists such as Edmund de Waal, Howard Hodgkin, Sol LeWitt, Jim Shaw and Pae White. Their collections range from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rarefied artefacts, and specimens. By exhibiting artists’ collections alongside at least one key example of their work, the show provides an insight into their inspirations, influences, motives, and obsessions.

Desk clock with Laika and planets, c.1950-60. Collection of Martin Parr © Martin Parr Collection/ Magnum Photos/ Rocket Gallery

Desk clock with Laika and planets, c.1950-60. Collection of Martin Parr
© Martin Parr Collection/ Magnum Photos/ Rocket Gallery

The collections are installed in accordance with the artists’ own display techniques, and the number of objects varies from less than 20 to more than 3,000 pieces.

Collection Damien Hirst. Unknown maker, Montage display of 24 tropical birds, mid-19th century Courtesy Murderme Collection

Collection Damien Hirst. Unknown maker, Montage display of 24 tropical birds, mid-19th century
Courtesy Murderme Collection

Individual collections include important examples of African art and Japanese samurai armour owned by Arman. That Damien Hirst collects skulls, taxidermy and medical models may come as no surprise whereas Andy Warhol curiously collected cookie jars and toys, objects both homely and childish.

Danh Vo I M U U R 2, 2013 (detail). Photo by Gene Pittman Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2014

Danh Vo
I M U U R 2, 2013 (detail). Photo by Gene Pittman Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2014

It has been a common practice throughout history for artists to collect objects for professional and private reasons – as studio props, sources of inspiration, references for their work, personal mementos and even as investment. Rubens, Rembrandt, Degas, Le Corbusier, Matisse, and Picasso are among a number of artists who were also collectors. In most cases, their passion for collecting complemented and informed their artistic interests, but occasionally it actually impeded their ability to work.

Just like us magpie civilians some artists live with and make direct use of their collections and 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 objects, never letting anything go.

Collecting objects for research and study is an important part of the practice of many of the artists in Magnificent Obsessions | The Artist as Collector. From reading his diaries where he often alludes to collecting, we know that Andy Warhol was a driven collector who had a daily routine of stopping by antique and junk shops to ferret out hidden treasures, acquiring new categories of objects that were not previously viewed as collectibles. Many of these objects have served as source material for his silkscreen prints and also became valuable, simply because he showed an interest in them.

Elephant figurines from the collection of Peter Blake. Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

Elephant figurines from the collection of Peter Blake. Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

Peter Blake deployed the strategy of accumulation towards a different aesthetic outcome.

Peter Blake Kamikaze, 1965 National Museum of Wales © Peter Blake. All rights reserved, DACS 2014. Image courtesy National Museum Wales.

Peter Blake
Kamikaze, 1965
National Museum of Wales
© Peter Blake. All rights reserved, DACS 2014. Image courtesy National Museum Wales.

While Blake’s early works from the 1950’s were typically paint on paper or board, he began painting on objects and also incorporating them into collage works in the early 1960’s after receiving a Leverhulme Research Award to study popular art, and collecting examples of this on his travels.

Magnificent Obsessions | The Artist as Collector
Barbican Art Gallery
12 February – 25 May 2015
Opening hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm
Thursday & Fridays, 10am – 9pm, Bank Holidays: 12noon – 6pm
Ticket prices: £5 – £12, Under 12s: Free

Words by Anna Bang

Tags

Andy Warhol, anna bang, Arman, Edmund de Waal, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Howard Hodgkin, Jim Shaw, Martin Parr, Pae White, Sol LeWitt, the Barbican,