Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at the Barbican
While the latest exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts shows how Rubens has influenced generations of painters, the Barbican focuses on simple objects that have inspired contemporary artists.
Magnificent Obsessions sees 14 artists’ personal collections, ranging from anatomical prints and British postcards to samurai armours, skulls and cookie jars. The inspiration behind this extraordinary exhibition is to show what they had on their walls as research material while they were creating their own art, the objects that were on their tables, and the patterns that surrounded them. By showcasing each artist’s personal collection next to their own creations, the exhibition aims to evaluate the dialogue between what the artist collected and what they created; did they incorporate any of the acquired objects into the art, or not?
When looking at the exhibition, it is important to remember that the collections on display were never intended to be shared with the public. Exhibiting the artists’ effects of artefacts and memorabilia give the displays a strong personal feeling, almost making the viewer feel like a voyeur. Nothing is set in a clinical order, instead there is a sense of domesticity. Each room is completely different – carpets have been added and walls have been repainted in order to create an impression of the artist’s home.
Hodgkin’s collection of Indian art is in a little mint-green room, while Dr Lakra’s space is a burst of colour, with pin-up girls and vintage magazines, old toys and dolls and his own scrapbooks. Pae White’s burst of colour takes the form of over 1,000 scarves, and Sol Lewitt’s black and white photographs represent the most minimalistic style of all. Jim Shaw’s interest in the undesirability of paintings found at thrift shops, and Peter Blake’s diverse collection of elephant figures, shop signs, masks and puppets, co-exist so naturally that it is hard to separate the artwork from the collection. Then, of course, there’s Andy Warhol’s collection of cookie jars – a symbol of ultimate domesticity, provoking a nostalgic sensation in the viewer.
Magnificent Obsessions is a unique idea that offers a peek into these artists’ homes – an opportunity that rarely occurs, one that invites the viewer to make new and exciting connections about art.
Photos: Andrei Andi
Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is at the Barbican until 25th May 2015, for further information visit here.