The Pleasures of Collecting

If you are familiar with the sitcom Seinfeld (and I wonder who isn’t), you might have heard about the coffee table book about coffee tables. Taking a twist on that, I’d like to mention my small, but none-the-less significant collection of books on collecting.

Like many things collected, they go through a series of stages, among them the initial notice, admiration, purchase, sometimes research (although this can come before purchase) and placement, before a thing is forgotten, or at least no longer immediately in sight of our minds-eye. This works fine for some objects, say a decanter, but not for books. A book may look nice, but can’t be seen or known completely, until it is read.

This morning I picked up one of those books I have collected, but didn’t yet know intimately. Purchased a year or more ago, it was about time we became more acquainted. I didn’t quite know what else could be said on the subject, but the engaging pages showed me the subject is deeper, and the topic wider than I had realized. Beware ye who may find collecting tenuous.

“Your true collector does not appologize for his hobbies; he exalts their virtues,” the book begins, “Necessity may occasionally compel him to resort to the camouflage of mid-interest, as when his family is not in sympathy with his pursuits; or, again, when fate has placed him in arid communion with unsympathetic associates, individuals whose personalities have developed independently of their souls, leaving them pronounced in the directions they invariably select; directions, in consequence, invariably divergent from those paths which the true collector loves to tread.”

Take that! And dare you spend these moments pondering why collecting is tenuous, stop and take note of the quote from Anatole France…
People laugh at collectors, who perhaps do lay themselves open to raillery, but that is also the case with all of us when we fall in love with anything at all. We ought to envy collectors, for they brighten their days with a long and peaceable joy. perhaps what they do a little resembles the task of the children who spade up heaps of sand at the edge of the sea, laboring in vain, for all they have built will soon be overthrown, and that, no doubt, is true of collections of books and pictures also. But we need not blame the collectors for it; the fault lies in the vicissitudes of existence and brevities of life. The sea carries off the heaps of sand and the auctioneers disperse the collections; and yet there are no better pleasures than the building of heaps of sand at ten years old, of collections at sixty.
Should you want to read more or just have one lying around, it appears there are several collectible copies on Alibris.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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