Magnificent Obsessions at The Barbican

As a designer-maker and collector (hoarder) I was excited about the Magnificent Obsessions: The Artists as Collector exhibition on many levels. I love collections and find it fascinating to explore what people collect, why they collect and how they store and display those collections. Magnificent Obsessions presents the collections of 14 post-war and contemporary artists alongside one piece of their own work. The collections ranged from mass-produced ephemera to refined collections of historical or cultural artefacts, all of which were beautifully displayed, and it was this visual curation that I loved the most. Each collection was displayed in a separate space, curated how each artist had displayed the collection in their home / studio or curated to the collections best advantage.

(Photographing the work and spaces was forbidden, so these have been sourced from a range of websites.)


This is both a collection and an art work. The collection belonged to the mother of the late artist Martin Wong, who together collected items, ranging from precious artefacts to pure tat. The collection was bought by artist Danh Vo, who curated it and exhibited it under the title “I M U U R 2”. As a result it raises  questions of authorship and authenticity, both in relation to the work as a whole and the individual objects. There are some humorous juxtapositions in the arrangement of the objects, such as the ornate carved wooden elephant topped by a tacky hamburger lamp, where every element of the two objects seems to jar: the aesthetic, material qualities, manufacturing methods.


For more info about the original I M U U R 2 exhibition visit Art in America. (Photo source for both photos above: BWP Group)


Dr Lahka’s record covers, creating a wall of colour and vibrant illustrations. (Photo source: The Upcoming)


Pae White’s was one of the narrower collections involving multiples of one type of item all by the same designer, Vera Neumann. The scarves were hung on wires extending from a single point on the left wall to a tiered arrangement on the right, creating a cascade of scarves within the space. Such a beautiful way to display fabrics or scarves. (Photo source: BWP Group)


Andy Warhol’s characterful cookie jar collection, simply presented in glass fronted cabinets. (Photo source: The Upcoming.)


Edmund de Waal’s collection of netsuke were a joy to see having devoured The Hare with Amber Eyes, his book about their history as family heirlooms and the historical events surrounding them. (Photo source: Alan Cristea Gallery)

The exhibition is on until 25th May 2015. Visit The Barbican website for details.

For more info: Review of the exhibition on Creative Boom


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