Do I collect anything? Stories. I think that the stories people tell me, the stories that fall out of the newspaper and into my imagination, the stories I dream, and the stories I read and save in my mind are my collection. Sure, I have books, but I’ve been shedding them, winnowing the physical library down faster than I add to it. I have Tango shoes, but I’m giving away the ones I don’t wear. Yes, I have art—but not a conscious and curated collection. I’m comfortable having a few of pieces in many categories, and I seem to lack the gene that pushes true collectors to amass multiples of their treasured obsession.
Stories about collectors and collections attract me. The quest to fill in all the missing pieces, to collect first editions, to display porcelain cats, to accumulate souvenir thimbles, to assemble a definitive collection of chess sets, to seek out rare antique Tarot cards, to exhibit vintage movie posters…. To me, the stories produced by that brand of passion are more intriguing than the collections.
Last spring I was in Barcelona at a marvelous museum filled with obsessive collections. Museu Frederic Marès contains thousands of sculptures donated to the city by the sculptor and obsessive collector Frederic Marès.
I was enthralled, intrigued, and finally a little bit horrified! Room after room after room…multiples upon multiples creating a repetitive narrative made up of the same pieces in a loop of images. One 4th century wooden crucifix, even two or three in a room is one kind of experience. But wall after wall, room after room, and each individual work of art, history, culture, religion, and emotion, is transformed by the obsessional nature of the groupings. Virtually everything in that museum was displayed as a puzzle piece and not an artifact on its own.
It was dizzying.
The better part of a year has passed and I still shiver at the thought. I got lost in Frederic Marès’ obsessions. I felt like I was falling into someone else’s fever dream. I’m still haunted and will someday transform that memory into a story; it will be a peek inside the collector’s deep passion.
The power of individual objects changes…