Celebrating the many and varied motivations for collecting, ‘Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector’ presents the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Arman, Peter Blake, Edmund de Waal, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Sol LeWitt, Martin Parr, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Pae White.
The exhibition reveals the hidden world of the artist’s collection. By including both artworks and works from their private collections, Magnificent Obsessions shows the many ways in which the astonishing variety of things that artists surround themselves with has a direct relationship to the art they make. While many of the participating artists are recognised internationally, their collections are often less well known, and the majority have never been seen in the Sainsbury Centre’s region before this major exhibition.
Many of us form collections throughout our lives and this exhibition sheds light on the universal compulsion to collect. Throughout history artists have collected objects for many reasons – as studio props, sources of inspiration, references for their work, personal mementos and as investment. Unlike museums, artists do not always 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 often for aesthetic reasons.
Their collections range from mass-produced memorabilia to rare art and artefacts and from natural history specimens to curios and objects reflecting popular culture. These extraordinary collections help reveal the creative processes of some of the most important artists of the last 50 years. Damien Hirst became the celebrated centre of Brit Art in the 1990s, notorious for his sharks and sheep, suspended forever in formaldehyde. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that he is an avid collector of taxidermy.
Howard Hodgkin’s glorious paintings in brilliant colour are collected and shown internationally, but perhaps he is less well known for his important collection of jewel-like Indian miniature paintings. In 1960s America, Andy Warhol redefined what we consider as art with his Pop prints of everyday items such as Brillo Pads and Heinz soup tins. An obsessive collector, Warhol hoarded an ever-growing stash of brick-a-brack and had a particular passion for mass-produced cookie jars.
Here in the UK, Peter Blake made iconic Pop Art works from the 1960s with a quirky combination of painting, print, collage and objects. As a teenager Blake bought objects, paintings and books from a station junkyard, triggering a life time of collecting. His home and studio are now filled with an eclectic mix of objects that range from elephants to shop signs and Punch and Judy puppets.
Sugimoto first met Robert and Lisa Sainsbury when they bought works from Japan from his gallery in New York, works that are currently on show in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Sugimoto is now an internationally acclaimed artist working with photography. A career as a dealer of antiquities led to personal acquisitions, and his intriguing collection includes early medial illustrations and glass eyes.
Other Individual collections on display include: African art and samurai armour owned by Arman; Edmund de Waal’s Japanese netsuke; Sol LeWitt’s Japanese prints, modernist photographs and music scores; 20th century British postcards and Soviet space dog memorabilia from Martin Parr; and more than 1,000 vintage scarves and other textiles by the American designer Vera Neumann from Pae White.
Exhibition curated and organised by Barbican Centre, London
MAGNIFICENT OBSESSIONS: THE ARTIST AS COLLECTOR – Sainsbury Centre For Visual Arts – 12 September to 24 January 2016