CFP: Artists’ Collections: Objects, Frameworks, Ideas (Munich, 26-27 Jul 20)

Munich, June 26-27, 2020

Call for papers

Artists have always assembled a range of artefacts and naturalia: beautiful, rare or “exotic” things, memorabilia, works by other artists, paraphernalia, studio materials and models, artists’ “relics,” found objects and knick-knacks. Like other collections, those of artists often oscillate between contingency and coherence, and between establishing epistemic categories or rejecting them. However, artists’ collections are spaces in which the production and the reception of artefacts intersect in particularly productive ways. Indeed, since they are often installed for the purpose of inspiration, a study of them has special potential to reveal the dynamics through which new works are formed. They serve as laboratories for ideas and artistic methods, or, in earlier times, as educational sites and repositories for models. At the same time, they reflect common collecting tastes and norms of their time. Artists’ collections are a rich field for sociological inquiry: They can be seen as material (auto)biographies that bear witness to artistic careers and social advancement; as spaces of sociability, connoisseurship, and artistic rivalry, they make artistic networks visible. What makes them exceptional cases of collecting is the fact they give artists the chance to curate their own work: through collecting, artists create a context for their art-making and thus exert influence on the perception and reception of their oeuvre.

The interest in artists’ collections has thus far focused primarily on prominent cases such as Vasari, Rubens, Le Nôtre, Degas, Liebermann, Warhol, or Baselitz. This symposium seeks to open the field by assembling papers that offer a more inclusive perspective on the collecting practices and spaces of artists from the early modern period to today. Why do artists collect? Do they create spaces specifically designed for the display of their collections? To what extent do they follow common collecting tastes, or establish new or unusual areas of collecting? How do collecting and art-making interact? Is the art-making process informed by collecting—or the other way around? To what extent do artists’ collections affect the wider perception of their works?

The artist as collector seems a topic particularly relevant to the contemporary art world, with its potent private collectors that dominate the field. Recently, artists have also emerged as lenders not just of their own works but also of works from their collections. Since artists’ collections often include gifts from artist friends, they can however also function as repositories that are to some extent separate from the flow of commodities, informed more by the logic of donation and exchange.

Our symposium will treat such collections both as spatial manifestations of underlying concepts and as spaces of interface with the public. We would like to investigate the ways artists appropriate objects and the works of others by collecting, arranging, compiling and curating them. Is a collection describable as a body of work in its own right, and if so, who is its author? Strong emphasis will thus be placed on the self-referential nature of artistic collecting practices.

We welcome proposals that go beyond a monographic approach to address fundamental issues of artists’ collecting practices. This could include the following:

– Displays of display: How does the display of a collection represent underlying ideas? What kind of interactions does it stimulate between items in the collection and the owner’s own works? What types of media are used to generate the public image of a collection?

– Original and copy: What importance do artists place on possessing the authentic works and material traces of other artists? When do they collect more for the purpose of assembling interesting models or materials?

– Appropriation practices: To what extent is the copying, retouching, overpainting, restoration or compiling of collection items an extension of collecting practices?

– The image of the artist-collector: How do artist-collectors represent themselves in pictures, or how are they represented by others? How are they imagined in (art) literature?

– The politics of otherness: How do artist-collectors act in relation to homosocial or ethnocentric networks that inform collecting practices? To what extent are such networks reproduced or disrupted in collecting practices?

– Staging rivalry: How do artists use collections to stage competitions between their own works and those of their peers, or other protagonists of art history or antiquity?

– Collecting and the canon: Do artists’ collections produce counter-narratives to the dominant canon? When is artistic collecting a form of self-museification?

The international symposium will take place June 26-27, 2020 in Munich, Germany. The organizers are Ulrike Keuper, Ph.D., and Léa Kuhn, Ph.D, member of the art history department of LMU Munich. Travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed subject to the commitment of funding.

Please send CVs and abstracts of no more than 300 words in German, English or French for a circa 25-minute presentation to and no later than November 3, 2019.