Magnificent Obsessions

The Artist as Collector

Collection of items in an art gallery

The first major exhibition in the UK to present the fascinating 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, the collections in Magnificent Obsessions provided insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. 

While some artists are connoisseurs, others accumulate hoards of objects, never letting anything go. Many live with and make direct use of their collections and others keep them under wraps or in storage. Collecting objects for research and study is key to the practice of many artists in the exhibition. Presented alongside examples of their work, their collections, in turn, help to elucidate their art.

Featured artists

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, Martin Wong / Danh Vo. 


‘What a delightful exhibition Magnificent Obsessions proves to be. Bursting at the seams with bizarre and beautiful objects...‘
Daily Telegraph
‘The exhibition is, by its nature, compelling and confounding‘
Wall Street International
‘A fabulous gallimaufry of an exhibition… the result is a glorious mix of nostalgia, eccentricity, kitsch and downright weirdness‘
Gulf News
‘There has never been a London art show like it‘
Crafts Magazine
‘Magnificent Obsessions is a fantastic and innovative exhibition‘
It's Nice That
‘Truly worthy of its title‘
‘There is an eclectic mix on display, prompting the question of what and why we collect...‘
London Magazine


Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector went on to tour to The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts: 12 September - 24 January 2016.


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Photo of Peter Blake in his studio

Listen: Sir Peter Blake

With a mutual love of elephant ephemera, Sir Peter Blake remembers his visit to Howard Hodgkin that inspired his ever-growing elephant collection.

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Photo of Dr Lakra

Listen: Dr Lakra

Dr Lakra takes us back to the Mexican chacharas of his childhood, the treasure trove markets where his collection first began.

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Photo of Pae White amongst scarves

Listen: Pae White

Amongst the glamour and celebrity of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and friends, Pae White’s magpie eye developed – associate curator Sophie Persson looks back at her indiscriminate love of collecting and her beautiful jumbles of Vera Neumann pieces.

Magnificent Obsessions App

From ceramic elephants and cookie jars to Margaret Thatcher memorabilia, uncover the private obsessions of artists as we explore their collections and discover how they inspire them in their own work. Download the free Magnificent Obsessions app. 

With thanks

Supported by

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Media partner