Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, the Barbican's new exhibition

Via Creative Boom submission. All images courtesy of Barbican. Main Image: Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Wong and Danh Vo’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Fancy checking out Andy Warhol's private collection of weird and wonderful cookie jars? Or perhaps Damien Hirst's skulls, taxidermy and medical models?

Welcome to the strange yet fascinating world of Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at London's Barbican. It's the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, including everything from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectables to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts, and natural history specimens.

Curated by Lydia Yee, the show presents a selection of objects from the collections of the artists alongside at least one key example of their work to provide insight into their inspirations, influences, motives, and obsessions. The objects from each collection vary in numbers from less than 20 to more than 3,000 items. They are installed in separate spaces within the gallery reflecting each artist’s aesthetic style, display techniques and live-work environment.

But why did these artists collect such things? Reflecting personal interests and obsessions, their acquisitions are usually made in tandem with their own work and on a visual basis. While many artists make direct use of their collections for research and study purposes – sometimes incorporating individual items into their own work – others keep them under wraps or in storage. Some artists are connoisseurs, carefully shaping their collections and selling objects to make new purchases, and others accumulate hoards of things, never letting anything go.

Individual collections include: examples of British vernacular culture from Peter Blake; the eclectic contents of two rooms from Hanne Darboven’s family home in Hamburg; Damien Hirst’s skulls, taxidermy and medical models; Indian paintings from Howard Hodgkin; Dr. Lakra’s record covers and scrapbooks, Sol LeWitt’s Japanese prints, modernist photographs and music scores; 20th century British postcards and Soviet space dog memorabilia from Martin Parr; Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 18th century French and Japanese anatomical prints and books; Andy Warhol’s cookie jars; more than 1,000 scarves and other textiles by the American designer Vera Neumann from Pae White; and a collection of thousands of objects assembled by Martin Wong and subsequently acquired by Danh Vo.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is on view from now until 25 May 2015. Discover more at www.barbican.org.uk.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Andy Warhol’s cookie jar collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Andy Warhol’s cookie jar collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Damien Hirst’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Damien Hirst’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Dr Lakra’s record covers collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Dr Lakra’s record covers collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Dr Lakra’s record covers collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Dr Lakra’s record covers collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Damien Hirst’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Damien Hirst’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Hanne Darboven’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Hanne Darboven’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Jim Shaw’s thrift store paintings collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Jim Shaw’s thrift store paintings collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin parr’s artwork. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin parr’s artwork. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Parr’s postcard collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Parr’s postcard collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Parr’s space dogs collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Parr’s space dogs collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Wong and Danh Vo’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Martin Wong and Danh Vo’s collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Peter Blake’s Dolls Collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Peter Blake’s Dolls Collection. Photograph by Peter McDiarmid