Habitat

Habitat: Obsessions—Artists, Curators, and Dealers Share Their Unusual Collections

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While this issue of ARTnews focuses on today’s prominent art collectors, the urge to amass objects—both valuable and not—is nearly as old as mankind. The ancient Greeks and Romans collected, as Erin Thompson writes in her recently published book Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present, as did Dutch aristocrats of Holland’s Golden Age, American tycoons of the Edwardian era, and as do eBay addicts today. In Europe of the mid-16th century, it was fashionable to gather strange or exotic objects into Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities—the precursors to the museums of the present, but also to such accumulations as Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly collection, featured in “The Keeper,” an exhibition that runs through September 25 at New York’s New Museum. As New Museum creative director Massimiliano Gioni writes in the catalogue for this show, motivations for endowing objects with significance are myriad, while collections may “range from staggeringly maximalist efforts to modest struggles charged with urgency.” Nevertheless, as Gioni says about the collections included in “The Keeper,” most are “acts of faith in the power of images.”

For our Top 200 issue, this special installment of Habitat, titled Habitat: Obsessions, explores the surprising non-art collections of art-world professionals, including dealers, artists, and curators, whose activities in this area often influence their work in unexpected ways. Over the next two weeks, each of those collections will be featured on the site—one each weekday.

Below, the complete lineup:

A version of this story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of ARTnews on page 54 under the title “Obsessions.”

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