During my time studying the School of Art collections there has been one object which has always captured my attention and constantly enthused me – a small, Japanese, box-shaped object delicately dressed in fine iron inlay by a masterful craftsman (figures 1a-1e). This cabinet, which has never been opened in recent times, has only occasionally been displayed in public exhibitions and seemed too beautiful not to be put in the spotlight. The cabinet has led me to the story of its patron George Powell, as well as to its own cultural history and development, but also onto a bigger story of the influences of a western world opening itself to Japanese art and culture.
Exhibition: (Im)memorabilia: Ephemerality, Resonance and the Collector’s Item (1 December 2014 – 6 February 2015)
Private Collections, Public Display
Do we collect things simply to indulge our passion for them? If so, why make a display of that passion? Showcasing seems calculated to raise certain objects to the status of ‘collectibles’ so as to advance the collector as connoisseur. And yet, might not the urge to exhibit our personal belongings be rather more elemental?