The importance of clutter #2 and more things to see in February


Martin Wong/Danh Vo collection image Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Clutter and collecting are officially having a moment.

You may remember we first mentioned it back here at Frieze Master’s and when Paul Smith showed us how he worked best surrounded by inspiring ‘stuff”. Well now London is awash with artists showing their own collections of clutter inspiring items or curating other people’s.

At a time when we are being encouraged to shed our posessions (I’m looking at you Stuffocation) I find this very satisfying, as I’m a collector and there’s absolutely no chance I’m ever going to turn into a minimalist. I see a clear tabletop and have a desperate need to fill it with artfully displayed things, why wouldn’t you?


Andy Warhol cookie jar collection image Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

So for anyone with similar inclinations, The Barbican’s Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector will appeal. It shows the personal collections of 14 artists, including Peter Blake, Damian Hirst, Andy Warhol, Martin Parr and Howard Hodgkins. A lot of these ‘collections’ are what you and I might call junk shop finds, most of the artists credit their local flea market and junk shops as a major source of inspiration. So watch out next time you are rifling through the vintage postcards at a car boot sale as you might be competing with Martin Parr, whose collection of postcards celebrating  laundrettes, motorway service stations and Butlins are a joy.

Above are Andy Warhol’s cookie jars, Damian’s collection features a cracking selection of taxidermy, including a seven legged lamb -not for the squeamish.

pae vera

Vera Neumann’s scarves from the collection of Pae White. image Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

My favourite collection by far was Pae White’s huge collections of Vera Neumann scarves. There’s over 1000 in Pae’s collection and they are hung tightly packed together on wire lines, like extraordinarily colourful washing. You can walk amongst them and absorb the multitude of pattern and colour, absolutely fabulous.


Then over at The Gagosian Gallery on Davies Street is Henry Moore’s Wunderkammer, a small exhibition that reproduces his maquette studio, with carvings and drawings displayed with some of the stone flint, coral, sea shells and other paraphernalia he collected over the years to inspire his study of form.


The displays of small but beautiful carvings are placed with the inspirational bits and bobs, alongside a giant picture of the original studio, below. It’s heartening to see how messy Moore’s studio was when he worked in it, I’m not sure I’d trust a tidy artist….


Then over at the Hayward Gallery is History Is Now, where seven artists have pulled art and documentation from all over the UK to curate  individual collections of what they think Britain represents today. It’s a neat way of looking at British history -I haven’t seen it but I will try and go before it closes at the end of April.

And for those who aren’t able to go to any of this, can I direct you to the marvellous Obsessionistas website, where there are collections galore to browse where ever you are.

I’m conscious that our cultural round ups are a a bit London based, we’d LOVE to get to events around the country more but we have no time, so if you have a great exhibition going on near you -about collections, clutter or anything else of interest, do pop a reference to it in the comments below.

And tell us what you are collecting too…I’m currently obsessed with cocktail paraphernalia…you?


  • sue evans says:

    Sadly I have run out of room for anything else ……..the house is awash with twinkly bits, 30s and 40s china, books, vintage clothes, scent bottles and just STUFF. However brocante season starts in 6 weeks ….. so who knows …..loving the Rossignol schoolroom posters that originated here in Montmorillion, Marmite pots, scent bottles, coloured terrine dishes, Charente pottery …… might end up rethinking the decor ……

  • Amanda says:

    Sue, you might need to do a ‘brocante’ post for us, then we’ll all want to move to France…Ax

  • sue evans says:

    Say the word !

  • Monix says:

    This makes me come out in hives! Though not a minimalist….the dust…the clutter…the sheer “mind muddle” of it all ( and this from someone who has over 200 scarves/pashminas…colour co ordinated…folded to the same size…hidden away in drawers). But would Love to read a brocante post !

  • Amanda says:

    Sue, looks like you are hired….Ax

  • Andrea says:

    Although not really directly linked to clutter …. I went to the re-opening of the Whitworth gallery in Manchester at the weekend and it is now such a fabulous place providing an excellent space for old and new paintings, textiles, photography, sculpture and everything else in between! Well worth a visit if ever in Manchester

  • Amanda says:

    Oh Andrea good tip, I’ve read lots of great things this weekend about The Whitworth Gallery, will def add it to the list Ax

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