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Habitat: Obsessions—A Look at Tom Eccles’s Toy Soldiers

Tom Eccles.

Tom Eccles.

Habitat: Obsessions is a ten-part series of visits to the surprising non-art collections of art-world professionals.

“They’re quite easy to get individually, but you want a full set in its box,” curator Tom Eccles said as he unpacked a box of CBG Mignot toy soldiers in his majestic upstate New York home, where he lives there with his family—and well over a thousand toy soldiers. The collection mostly resides in Eccles’ joint library-office. As his wife prepared a cake in the kitchen, artist Tony Oursler, whose exhibition was about to open at CCS Bard’s Hessel Museum (where Eccles is director), hung out in the next room tinkering on the curator’s piano.

Eccles liked toy soldiers as a child but didn’t start collecting them seriously until the 1990s. “There was a funny shop in the basement of a bookstore on Madison and 82nd,” he said, of his early days collecting in Manhattan. These days he does a lot of his buying online. Some soldiers in his collection date back to 1890. Some of these early pieces were crafted from sawdust and glue, though most are made of lead. “The salt on your fingers affects the lead in the paint,” Eccles said. “That’s how you can tell which ones have been played with.”

Below, a look around Eccles’ collection.

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