- Text by Megan White
Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is a new exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery running until May 25 that brings together around 8,000 objects from the personal collections of artists such as 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.
Artists, it seems, are formidable hoarders. Some of the curiosities on display include Damien Hurst’s taxidermy, Peter Blake’s vintage signs and Martin Parr’s Soviet souvenirs.
The show features artists’ collections alongside pieces of their work, revealing the thought process that goes into their work and how these odd objects inspire them.
While many artists make direct use of their collections – 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.
Magnificent Obsessions was curated by Lydia Yee, who was inspired by objects in artists’ studios that weren’t used in their work. It was challenging to persuade the artists to part with their beloved paraphernalia, she says, but it allowed her to look at the world through the artists eyes.
One artist, however, did not take much persuading – Edmund de Waal. The history of his collection of carved Japanese netsuke figurines was traced in his best-selling 2010 memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes, in which he describes the tragic trajectory of the figurines, inherited from wealthy Jewish ancestors who were dispossessed during World War II.
Alongside the exhibition, The Barbican has also created an app which allows users to take a more in-depth look at the artists’ collections, a fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue and a shop stocking a range of exclusive products both inspired by the artists’ collections and designed to inspire new collectors.
Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector runs at The Barbican Art Gallery until May 25, 2015.