Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 21.42.44 Cookie jars formerly in the collection of Andy Warhol Movado Group, New Jersey
Image via barbican.org.uk

In the Barbican's current exhibition Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector the viewer is invited to delve into the mind and personal collections of 14 artists including Arman, Peter Blake, Hanne Darboven, Edmund de Waal, Damian Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Dr Lakra, Sol Lewitt, Martin Parr, Jim Shaw, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Andy Warhol, Pae White and Danh Vo. It examines their artwork within the context of their intimate collections, from Hirst's taxidermy to Arman's accumulation of African tribal masks.

It is argued that most of us have a strong childhood desire to accumulate. Not least artists themselves as is evidenced in this show; inviting the voyeur into the psyche of its hoarder.

SB_ Living room of Arman's home
Image via barbican.org.uk

A personal collection is very much that, personal. As a summary of its parts a collection enshrines memories with imagination and presents an insight into something very intimate, a self-portrait of sorts. This is also evidenced in Sotheby's recent sale; Bear Witness, with over 500 works of art and objects, the majority of which drawing inspiration from bears and skulls. A modern wunderkammer and ode to their erstwhile collector, presumed to be the Italian shipbuilder, Guido Orsi and his eponymous Orsi Collection.

Does the desire to hoard stem from dreams of plenty and fears of loss or is it an expression of personal intentions, influences, passions and obsessions. Historically artists have often been associated with collecting. Artists from Francisco Goya to Andy Warhol are renowned for their idiosyncratic collections and hoarding habits, call it what you will. These vast accumulations can be childlike in their zeal presenting a quirky visual yet intellectual hinterland. Examined within the context of their artwork, these collections, in turn, help shed light on the creative process.

p02jpv2c Arman, Home Sweet Home II, 1960
Glenstone, Potomac. Courtesy the Arman Studio Archives. © ADAGP and DACS, 2014.
Image via bbc.co.uk

These fascinating collections help to unravel and elucidate aspects of their artistic owners. Warhol's animatronic toys can be seen portrayed in his Toy Painting series while Arman's obsession with African tribal masks is translated into his accumulation of gas masks in Home Sweet Home, 1960. Artists collect for much the same reasons as everyone else – possession and obsession. Their pleasure comes as much from the pursuit as from the acquisition. The Barbican show helps to illuminate aspects of the artists' oeuvre via the unravelling of their collections.

 

/Sarah Bourghardt

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