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Your Magnificent Collections

As part of Magnificent Obsessions: the Artist as Collector, the MA Fellows from the Education and Marketing departments ran a public participation project titled Your Magnificent Collections. For the duration of the exhibition, the public was invited to send photographs of their own collections to be displayed in the gallery, on the website and through social media. Magnificent Obsessions provoked questions about the philosophy behind collecting, and this project enabled the public to contribute directly to the debate, using their own collections to illustrate their ideas.

The first collection displayed for the project was from artist Bruce Lacey. The eccentricity of his collection and engaging photography gave the project a rich starting point and provided a model for potential participators. Throughout the 5-month period, the project inspired over 50 contributors to share an overwhelming variety of collections from human hair to miniature plastic televisions. The participants ranged from an artist who collects as part of his practice, a botanist collecting bramble specimens for study, and children collecting their favourite toys, to a professor collecting Wombles memorabilia that inspired her eventual career. Your Magnificent Collections also prompted a local teacher to set the project as a challenge for her GCSE Art students.

Through correspondence between the participants and the MA Fellows running the project, a recurring desire to share collections on a larger scale became evident. Due to space limits and the volume of contributors, it wasn’t possible to display entire collections or host lengthy presentations. Instead, all contributors were invited to Your Magnificent Collections Celebration Afternoon on the last weekend of the exhibition. The afternoon aimed to facilitate discussion between the community of collectors revealed by the project and, through the challenge of displaying a limited example of their collection, explore ideas of curation and selection. The event also brought together the MA Fellows from four departments within the Sainsbury Centre to share ideas on collecting and curating in relation to their roles.

The attendees of Your Magnificent Collections Celebration Afternoon ranged widely in age, from GSCE students to established artists, and in their relationship to the Sainsbury Centre, from first-time visitors to a member of the volunteer guide team. Unexpectedly, many of the collectors also brought along their friends and family. Although not planned, their presence brought new voices to the conversation, including viewpoints from outside a collector’s narrow expertise and insights on relationships between collectors and non-collectors within friendships and family units. The element of the afternoon that made the most impact was the presentation and discussion of each collector’s display, as each participant’s collection was met with deep engagement from the other collectors, no matter how niche.

Follow the links to find an archive of the contributions to the project and photographs of the event.


Jane and David Housham’s collection of miniature plastic televisions.

Sarah Beare's collection titled 'Japanese Collection'.

Curating small selections of collections with labels and coloured mounts

MA Fellows in Conversation on Collecting

‘Touch Curation’, creating collections without seeing the objects