KAFFEINE / Arts & Culture, Public Relations

Magnificent Collections

29 April 2015

Magnificent Collections

Curation was once the preserve of the art world but, in the age of social media, we’re all curators now. As well as individuals playing at being curators of content via platforms such as Pinterest and Flickr, brands have a growing curatorial role as consumers turn to them to filter and provide guidance. Curated collections – whether in the real or digital world – give us insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of the collector. The idea of artists as curators themselves is explored in the Barbican’s Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. It’s the first major UK exhibition to present the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, from mass-produced collectibles to curiosities.

Inspired by the Barbican's extraordinary exhibition, here are our top five personal collections from the past and present.

 5. Ferrante Imperatos' Cabinet of Curiosities

This foldout engraving from Ferrante Imperato’s 1599 publication Dell'Historia Naturale is the earliest pictorial representation of a natural history cabinet. The original Wunderkammer, it reveals the desire of 16th Century wealthy travelers and Italian aristocracy to possess the world in a room. 

Engraving from Ferrante Imperato, Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples, 1599)

Engraving from Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples, 1599) 

4. Susan Hiller's The Tao of Water: Homage to Joseph Beuys

A collection of mystic water collected from sites across the world said to possess magic or spiritual power, from the rivers of Greek tragedy to the waters of Lourdes, inspired by myth, philosophy and the shamanic work of Joseph Beuys.

Susan Hiller, The Tao of Water: Homage to Joseph Beuys 1969–2010.Felt-lined cabinet, felt squares & bottles of holy  
water, 56x84x28.5cm. Photo: Todd White Art Photography, Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, © Susan Hiller

3. Mark Dion's Tate Thames Dig

This installation saw the artist dredge the banks of the Thames in front of Tate Britain and Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern) to create a microcosm of London in a huge locker. A miscellany of centuries of London lives was segmented and labelled according to Dion's unique taxonomy, from shillings, crowns, pounds and shredded Visas to e-cigarettes. 

Mark Dion, Tate Thames Dig, 1999. Wooden cabinet, porcelaine, earthenware, metal, animal bones, glass and 2 maps, unconfirmed: 
2660 x 3700 x 1260 mm. Mark Doin, Tate Collection

2. Sigmund Freud's Office

Freud's passion for collecting mementos and antiquities from Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Orient – which he confessed was second in intensity only to his addiction to cigars – is as defining an emblem of his work as his famous psychoanalytic couch. 

Sigmund Freud, Cabinets De Sigmund Freud, Courtesy of The Freud Museum, London.

1. Danh Vo/Martin Wong's I M U U R 2

One of our personal highlights from Magnificent Obsessions was the Danish artist Dahn Vo's poignant collection. Drawn from the archive of the late Chinese painter Martin Wong, it explores aspects of Vo's identity in the diaspora between China and America, his sexuality and relationship with his family, from Buddha ornaments to Nixon badges, flags, fans and miniature paintings by the artist.

Installation view of The Hugo Boss Prize: Danh Vo, I M U U R 2, Photo: Kris McKay © 2013 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation 
Danh Vo currently shows at The Barbican Centre in Magnificent Obsessions. 

 Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector runs until 25 May 2015 at The Barbican Centre.