Accumulating, Decorating & Collecting: Part One

Creators, distributors, and retailers aside, the craft and antiques population can be divided into three parts: accumulators, decorators, and collectors.

Previously villainized or pitied, Accumulators now star in so-called “reality” TV shows. “Hoarders,” for instance. And maybe less overtly, “Storage Wars” (where else could all that stuff come from?).

In the first instance the point of the show is cathartic: to purge an evil. In the second case, the point is to produce a profit.

Thanks to broader public exposure, our reaction to Accumulators’ behaviors may have moved from contempt to compassion.

Or self-congratulation. (“I’m not like that!”)

Among Accumulators, there’s a driven, insatiable mindlessness motivating compulsive behavior.

By “Decorators” I refer to individual consumers and their motivations, not the profession.
Decorators want “Nice.” And something that “fits”; a 30-inch diameter lamp table of a certain style in a certain color. And not 29 inches. Or 31. Thirty.

The fit sought by Decorators frequently manifests itself in a similarity or congruence of theme, outward or surface appearance, and in one object’s visual and spatial relationship to its companions.

The world’s third flavor, Collectors, is no less peculiar than the first two categories. But they possess (or have been assigned) an elevated status making oddity and eccentricity acceptable and legitimate.

Indeed, some collectors (and their possessions) are valued for their peculiarity, later seen as visionary.

The collection of Frans Wildenhain ceramics donated to RIT by Robert Johnson is the largest and most comprehensive collection of Wildenhain’s work in the world.

Johnson began collecting Wildenhain’s work in 1955 and persisted until Frans’s death in 1980. The collection represents the artist’s work as it evolved during professional maturation.

The collection’s exhibition at two RIT galleries this year (August 20 to October 2, 2012), and its presentation in the accompanying 256-page book, afforded visitors and now readers an opportunity to appreciate the artist’s breadth of creativity as much as it does the collector’s willingness to stretch.

For Johnson there were financial stretches (the work wasn’t cheap), aesthetic stretches (the work wasn’t always all that accessible), and spatial stretches (where to put it all).
More to follow. Stay tuned.

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