I recently met art historian, curator, and art consultant Tami Katz-Freiman here in Miami. I was excited to be introduced to her not only because is she the former Chief Curator of the Haifa Museum of Art in Haifa, Israel, she was also appointed to curate the Israeli Pavilion in the 57th International Art Exhibition (this year, 2017). I haven't met too many Venice Biennale pavilion curators and as one of the most, if not the most prestigious art event in the world I was interested in hearing her speak more about the experience. We exchanged information and upon reviewing the many essays she has written for exhibition catalogs on her website, I came across one that really spoke to me. “Collecting is a Form of Uprooting – An Encounter between Self and Object” a catalog essay for the exhibition Shelf Life co-curated with Rotem Ruff, featured at the Haifa Museum of Art from February to July in 2010.
I'm constantly talking about collecting as opposed to just purchasing on The Empty Apartment. I think the idea of collecting holds a heavier weight, value, and meaning to the object at hand whether it be an artwork, furniture art, whatever you decide to bring into your home. I've hosted panel conversations with art dealers, interior designers, and antique dealers to get different perspectives on the idea of collecting and using the home as a space to collect hence why I find this essay by Tami Katz-Freiman so interesting. In this case a perspective from artists in the practice of conceptual art in the general context collecting.
The exhibition Shelf Life featured a group of artist's approach to analyzing the aesthetic and psychological complexity of what it means to collect and represent it through their artwork. The essay went beyond just featuring the ideas of the exhibition but also dove into the historical complexities in the meaning of collecting and quoted some of the great writers and philosophers of our time on collecting. Here is an excerpt from the essay:
The philosopher Jean Baudrillard argued that the purchase of an
old piece of furniture, for instance, is akin to
purchasing a piece of heritance. Such an object,
according to Baudrillard, ”is not useless or
poorly decorative but plays a special role within
a system, it is a sign of the time.“ 1
Susan Sontag similarly related to the magical power of objects,
which seemingly enables one to experience life
during other historical periods; she described
the world of collectors as authenticating ”the
existence of other worlds, energies, domains,
epochs, different from the one in which they live.“2
The history of the act of collecting as well as defining parameters for what a collection is and who a collector is, is also highlighted throughout the text as an important component to the exhibition's purpose as noted in this excerpt:
The question of what defines an accumulation
of objects as a ”collection“ is essential to a
discussion of ”ShelfLife.“ Gideon Ofrat aptly
defined the difference between accumulating
and collecting by noting that the owners of
numerous houses or diamonds are not collectors.
Even the gallery owner whose storage space is
crowded with artworks is not an art collector. 3
Whether collecting is an obsession or disease or a casual past time, there is no doubt that during the act, the beholder is contributing to the collected item with an additional value. This added value is what I believe makes the art or furniture unique and special to that particular home and becomes part of a context. The exhibition Shelf Life took place 7 years ago, however, the topic on collecting and the exhibition's complexity is extremely relevant. The essay written by Tami Katz-Freiman is a great collection of perspectives on the subject. To read the complete essay and learn about the exhibition Shelf Life please visit the link here and to learn more about Tami Katz-Freiman visit her website here.
1 Jean Baudrillard quoted by Olivier Coron, ”The Collector and His Passion,“ in Flowers of Our Lives )exh. cat.(, Torun ́, Poland: Znaki Czasu, 2008, p. 66.
2 Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover, New York: Anchor Books, 1993, p. 82
3 Gideon Ofrat, ”Collect or Die,“ in Washington Crosses the Jordan, Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2008, p. 120 [Hebrew]
Many thanks to the author, Tami Katz-Freiman for permission to feature this essay.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to see how modernist designers lived and learn about their personal collections documented in the books Handcrafted Modern and Modern Originals by Leslie Williamson check out our review on her great documentation in Portrait of a Domestic Interior.