We rarely think of artists as ‘art buyers’ or ‘collectors’ — though a new exhibition at London’s Barbican seeks to prove us wrong. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector presents never-before seen personal collections, from Andy Warhol’s cookie jars to Damien Hirst’s more macabre skulls, taxidermy and medical models.
Los Angeles-based artist Pae White (b.1963) began her first collection at the age of five — a treasure trove of objects that would become a ‘decisive factor’ in her artistic career. As a young girl, she compulsively amassed spider webs, cats’ whiskers and even dead flies — later expanding her collection to include abandoned letters, patterned paper and textiles.
White’s largest collection consists of over 3,000 pieces of fabric by prolific American designer Vera Neumann (1907-93). As a young artist, White recalls: ‘I spent a great deal of time in thrift stores and flea markets — buying clothes and looking for inspiration — and would frequently come across Vera designs for a dollar or 50 cents or even less.’
As her collection grew, White began to meticulously archive its components: ‘The database that I developed categorised the pieces in order of format and intended usage (square, long, extra-long, table cloth, napkins, etc.), but for every entry I would also note a brief description that often included personal commentary.’
Intimately associated with both the artist’s childhood and later years as a young artist, this collection offers an illuminating insight into White’s practice — allowing viewers to momentarily share her understanding of the material world.
Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector runs at Barbican until 25 May 2015, then at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich from 12 September — 24 January 2016. Extract taken from the accompanying book Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, co-published by Barbican Art Gallery and Prestel.
On 21 March, collectors are invited to bring their most loved treasure to the Garden Room at Barbican to be valued by a Christie’s antiques expert. Three specialists with expertise in paintings, jewellery and the decorative arts will be ready and willing to discuss and evaluate your object with you. All sorts of objects are welcome.