Magnificent Obsessions
The Artist as Collector

Barbican Art Gallery
12 February – 25 May 2015
Media View, Wednesday 11 February 2015
10am – 1pm
Installation images now available from downloads box

Supported by Movado, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni as part of ‘French Artists at the Barbican’, the Mexican Embassy as part of the Year of Mexico in the UK in 2015, the Danish Arts Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. Media Partner: Time Out.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists, including Arman, Peter Blake, Hanne Darboven, Edmund de Waal, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Dr Lakra, Sol LeWitt, Martin Parr, Jim Shaw, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Andy Warhol, Pae White and Martin Wong/Danh Vo. Their collections range from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts, and natural history specimens. Curated by Lydia Yee, the exhibition 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. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is on view from 12 February through 25 May 2015.

While many of the participating artists are recognised internationally, their collections are often private and less well known, and the majority have never been seen in the UK. Individual collections include: African art and samurai armour owned by Arman; examples of British vernacular culture from Peter Blake; the eclectic contents of two rooms from Hanne Darboven’s family home in Hamburg; Edmund de Waal’s Japanese netsuke; 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; Jim Shaw’s thrift store paintings; 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.

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. The exhibition has been designed by the London based practice Dyvik Kahlen Architects.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican Art Gallery
, said: “What a joy to have brought together the treasured private collections of the fourteen artists in Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector. The thrill of collecting is something we can all relate to, and I am sure visitors will enjoy this deeply personal and endlessly fascinating show’.

Throughout history artists have collected objects for professional and private reasons – as studio props, sources of inspiration, references for their work, personal mementos and even as investment. Collections have traditionally been amassed with the objective of building and transmitting knowledge. Artists too share this aim, but towards more personal ends. Unlike museums, artists do not typically take a scholarly approach to collecting, nor do they seek to assemble comprehensive and representative collections. 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.


Notes to Editors

Press Information
For further information, images or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Ann Berni, Media Relations Manager
+44 207 382 7169,

Ariane Oiticica, Media Relations Officer
+44 207 382 6162,

Public Information

Barbican Art Gallery, London, 0845 120 7550,
Opening hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm
Thursday & Fridays, 10am – 9pm
Bank Holidays: 12noon – 6pm
Ticket prices: £5 – £12, Under 12s: Free
Advance booking is recommended.
During busy periods timed admission is in operation.

Last admission 90 mins before close.

All press releases, images, and videos are available for download from the newsroom:


Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is organised by Barbican Art Gallery and curated by Lydia Yee. A version of the exhibition will travel to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 12 September 2015 – 25 January 2016.


The exhibition is accompanied by a rich programme of talks and events running from February to May 2015. Highlights include the popular ‘In Conversation’ events, with Peter Blake in conversation with journalist and writer Rachel Cooke; and Edmund de Waal in conversation with art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon . Other talk events include a discussion looking at London’s historic collections, the Wellcome Trust and the Sir John Soane’s Museum moderated by journalist Maev Kennedy. Also featured in the programme is a Mouse Taxidermy Workshop with Margot Magpie; and Magnificent Collectors: a family day with a collectors’ evaluation event supported by Christie’s and commissioned activities from photographer GiselaTorres and live game specialists Mufti. A series of exhibition tours with the exhibition curators, designers and collecting experts such as artist and writer Zoë Mendelson; Viktor Wynd of The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities Fine Art & Natural History; and the exhibition designers Dyvik Kahlen Architects.
For full listings and tickets please visit the website .


Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication, co-published by Barbican Art Gallery and Prestel. Designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio, the book includes an introductory essay by the curator Lydia Yee, and texts and interviews about the collections along with more than 200 photographs of individual objects, the collections in situ, and works by the artists.
ISBN: 978-3-7913-8152-7, £37.50

Exhibition App

For a more in-depth look at the exhibition, the Barbican has produced a special Magnificent Obsessions app for iOS and Android. Designed to be both visually rich and user-friendly, this free app explores the artists’ private collections with high resolution images of the artists’ objects and their studios plus interviews with curators and the artists themselves. Specially recorded for the app, interviews include Magnificent Obsessions Curator Lydia Yee, Associate Curator Sophie Persson, and artists Martin Parr, Jim Shaw, Dr Lakra, Howard Hodgkin, Peter Blake, Edmund de Waal, Sol Le Witt’s wife Carol Le Witt and Martin Wong discussing why collections matter, and talking about what drives them to collect and the intriguing origins of some of their own collections.
The Magnificent Obsessions app is available from 12 February to download for free on iOS from the App Store and Android on Google Play.

Barbican Art Gallery Shop

The Barbican Shop complements the exhibition with a range of exclusive products both inspired by the artists’ collections and designed to inspire new collectors. Products range from exquisitely macabre chocolate skulls by Conjurors Kitchen to enchanting one-off taxidermy sculptures by Katie Brooks and exclusive ceramic wall hangings from Maison Monade. Rose Blake brings her bold and playful style to a specially commissioned print, inspired by her father Peter Blake’s elephant collection, titled Riding into the past, with my dad, on the back of his toy elephant collection. Each screen print is signed, numbered and strictly limited to 100 editions and it is available exclusively from the Magnificent Obsessions shop for the duration of the exhibition. A silk scarf by Susie Green, newly commissioned jewellery by Kika Mishto, Tatty Divine jewellery in exclusive colours, and specially created ceramics by Laura Bird are also available. A range of cups, boxes, bell jars and tags by international designers are on offer for those whose collections are already rapidly burgeoning, as are a selection of rare books chronicling famous collectors’ hoards. The shop is open daily from 11am to 6pm, with late openings until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. A selected range of items is also available online .

About the Barbican

A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does.
Over 1.5 million people pass through the Barbican’s doors annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, the Pit, Cinemas One, Two and Three, foyers and public spaces, a library, Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory, conference facilities and three restaurants.
The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre. The Barbican is home to Resident Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra; Associate Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Associate Ensembles the Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia, and Associate Producer Serious. Our Artistic Associates include Boy Blue Entertainment, Cheek by Jowl and Michael Clark Company. International Associates are Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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