We were all born curators, whether we realize it or not. Since childhood we've been gathering collections—first of toys, video games, and baseball cards, and later, cosmetics and clothes, posters for our dorm rooms, notebooks and letters, postcards from museums we've visited, records and CDs. While eventually most of us part with these little collections piecemeal via garage sales or thrift store donations, when viewed together, the items we accrue can serve as detailed portraits of who we are and what we're obsessed with.
A new exhibition at the New Museum in New York City, The Keeper, takes a look at a number of these personal museums constructed by artists and writers throughout the 20th century, and is a visual testament to our bizarre, obsessive need to collect.
The centerpiece of the show is undoubtedly the staggering "Partners (The Teddy Bear Project)," a 3,000-piece collection of photographs of people holding teddy bears. Artist and curator Ydessa Hendeles spent years scouring the private collections of vintage photography dealers for family portraits featuring history's favorite stuffed animal, an obsessive feat that demonstrates just how universal our love of the teddy bear is.
Below, explore 10 more interesting collections highlighted in the New Museum's exhibition, from gemstones to book sculptures made from colorful found objects.
After his mother passed away, California artist Howard Fried wanted her beautiful wardrobe to live on in the closets of others. For "The Decomposition of My Mother's Wardrobe" (2014), Fried began exhibiting his late mother's clothing collection as an installation at art museums and galleries, allowing viewers to take a survey that identified which garment would best suit them. He'd then bestow that piece of clothing on the viewer, asking that they wear it to an event he'd organize for all the clothing recipients, as well as send him a photograph of themselves wearing the item.
A patient in a psychiatric facility in Brazil for 50 years, Arthur Bispo do Rosário believed he had been called on to collect cardboard, textiles, toys, jewelry, shoes, aluminum cans, netting, and other found objects to make sculptures and tapestries in preparation for Judgment Day. Bispo do Rosário, "Carrinho-Arquivo II."
American artist Carol Bove often presents her own sculpture alongside found objects she sees as perfect works of art already fit for exhibition, as well as works by famous deceased artists who have influenced her own practice. Bove, "Cretaceous," 2014.
A piece of variscite from the vast stone collection of French philosopher Roger Caillois.
Bove created sculptures inspired by 20th-century Italian architect Carlo Scarpa's work, which were first exhibited at the Henry Moore Institute in the UK in 2015.
Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, "The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz (1916–1992), Insurance Clerk from Vienna" (1993–2008).
French artist Aurélien Froment's 2007 film "Théâtre de poche [Pocket Theater]" depicts a magician conjuring a collection of strange objects and images, from blocks to playing cards to religious iconography to historical photographs.
Chinese businessman Ye Jinglu commissioned a portrait of himself every year for 62 years, beginning in 1907. These photographers were later discovered by collector Tong Bingxue.
A close-up shot of one of Japanese artist Shinro Ohtake's scrapbooks, detailed at the beginning of the article. "Scrapbook #12," 1980.
Photographer Zofia Rydet spent more than a decade traveling around Poland, shooting the incredible collections of photographs, religious artwork, rugs, and paintings in the homes of Poland's rural population. Rydet, "Zapis socjologiczny [Sociological Record]," 1978–1990.
The Keeper runs at the New Museum in New York City from July 20–September 25. For more information, visit newmuseum.org.