Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector

Netsuke from the collection of Edmund de Waal. Photo by Justin Piperger

If you are at all interested in collecting – anything (art, postcards, taxidermy) – then you’re probably already planning to go to the Magnificent Obsession: The Artist as Collector exhibition at the Barbican. It features fourteen post-war and contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Pae White, Damien Hirst and Hiroshi Sugimoto, and their hugely different and fascinating personal collections, as well as examples of their own work which reveal just how significant their obsessive collecting has been.

The collections range from mass-produced memorabilia (Martin Parr’s postcard collection) and popular collectibles (Andy Warhol’s cookie jars) to rare artefacts (Arman’s amazingly beautiful African masks), and make for a fascinating show, both in its endless detail – you could spend a long time looking at Peter Blake’s vitrine full of meticulously labelled historical bits and pieces – and in the overview it presents: that is, just how productive a spot of hoarding can be.

But even if collecting and keeping ‘things’ isn’t your thing, do see this show. It’s full not just of stuff, but of real treasures too. Sol LeWitt’s black and white photographs, both by himself and by others (including Henri Cartier-Bresson) are not to be missed, and nor is Howard Hodgkin’s collection of Mughal period Indian paintings, widely considered to be one of the finest of its kind, each painting more exquisite than the next. Finally, if you’ve read Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes (and if you haven’t, you must), then do note: part of his Japanese netsuke collection is here, including the hare itself. It’s quite something to be able to see these little objects, especially when you know where they’ve been and the history they’ve been witness to.

The Barbican has also put together an excellent programme of events to accompany the exhibition, which are worth booking for now (several have already sold out) including a talk by artist and writer Edmund de Waal and journalist Andrew Graham-Dixon on April 22nd at 7pm, and a Magnificent Collectors Family Day with Christies on 21st March, from 11am – 3pm, when you can bring in your most loved treasure to be valued by a Christie’s expert, and pose with it for a photo portrait by Gisela Torres. There are several exhibition tours with both in-house and visiting curators and collectors too – do have a look at the website for more details. Finally, don’t bypass the shop, which is full of unusual and collectible curiosities and such, none too expensive. We loved it.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector
Until 25 May 2015. Gallery open: Daily, 10am - 6pm and till 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays
Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
£5 - £12. Under 12s: free
0845 120 7550
— Daisy
18th February 2015