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The Magnificent Obsessions Of Artists

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 27 months ago
The Magnificent Obsessions Of Artists ★★★☆☆ 3
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
Skulls unsurprisingly feature strongly in Damien Hirst's collection, as does taxidermy. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images Courtesy Murderme Collection
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Pae White's collection of Vera Newman scarves at the Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
Pae White has collected all textiles from dresses to bedsheets and they hang like an extremely colourful washing line. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
Hanne Darboven is one of the artists in this show to possess an eclectic collection. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
Martin Parr takes insightful photographs of modern life so it's no surprise to see he has a collection of tacky postcards. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
There is a surprising abundance of ceramic animal figures across all the collections. For Martin Wong's horde, these are all Chinatown gifts. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery on February 11, 2015 in London, England. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on February 12, 2015 until - May 25, 2015.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
Peter Blake's collection is one of the best, including taxidermy and one of the creepiest doll collections we've seen. © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Lots of people love to collect art, but what do artists themselves collect and how does it influence their work? This is the premise behind the current exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery.

It's pulled together vast collections of items and eccentricities that range from Hiroshi Sugimoto's anatomical drawings to Martin Wong's collection of Chinatown souvenirs. Some of the collections will come as no surprise to fans of the artist's works — for example Damien Hirst's collection of skulls and taxidermy animals or documentary photographer Martin Parr's tacky souvenirs.

Some of the more eccentric collections belong to Hanne Darboven with a seemingly random assortment of items, and Peter Blake and his very creepy assortment of dolls.

The strongest parts of this exhibition are where the collections make you approach the artist's work in a new light. This is most evident with Howard Hodgkin and his collection of Indian paintings. One of his signature abstract works hangs nearby and it's clear to see how the colours in the Indian paintings have influenced his own work.

Unfortunately this revelation is not common to all the artists here, though we did learn that artists love to collect kitsch — the amount of porcelain and ceramic dolls and animals on display is surprising.

This is a fun collection of random items that most visitors will enjoy exploring, though we wish it had been able to offer greater insight into the work of the artists.

Magnificent Obsessions: The artist as collector is on at Barbican Art Gallery until 25 May. Tickets are £12 for adults, concessions available.

For collections of the older variety, make sure to visit Cotton to Gold at Two Temple Place.

For more art to see in London, see our top 10 openings for February.

Last Updated 16 February 2015