Museum of Garden History, London
3 July - 29 October 2006
Thursday 20 July at the Museum of Garden History
Parabola and the Museum of Garden History welcomed enthusiastic collectors along with exemplary pieces for an evening devoted to the nature and potential meanings of contemporary curation, procurement and collection. Discussing the beginnings of their collections and their rationale, the collectors addressed questions from their audience. Collectors who took part in the evening include:
Pieter C W M Dreesmann was raised in a collector's family in Amsterdam. His father was a businessman and Professor of Economics, famous for his eclectic assembly of French Furniture, Old Master Paintings and drawings, and Dutch Silver. Pieter directs The Art Document Company, which carries out research and produces art inventory catalogues for private collectors. His first purchase was an 18th century French backgammon table.
Steve Hare BA, FRSA, is a freelance author and journalist writing on the visual arts, as well as a lecturer in publishing history. His particular area of expertise lies in Penguin history: he compiled Penguin Portrait, the imprint's 60th-anniversary celebratory volume, and several other books on Penguin design, series and personalities.
Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a gardener and historian. He grew up in exotic places and from an early age became an inveterate collector. He was first drawn to shells and other natural curiosities, but rapidly diversified into other areas including religious art, sculpture and painting. A scholar as well as a collector, he has a serious interest in the history of collecting, and has sought to form a collection (with his friend Tim Knox - Director of Sir John Soane's Museum) that evokes the feel of the great private museums of the past, arranging his treasures in a deliberately theatrical manner.
Gerry Smith is an artist who started collecting around 1982, when he bought a Daumier lithograph from a gallery in Museum Street. He initially saw his early purchases as part of his educational path as an artist, but now acknowledges these as 'being part of the audience of Art'. He says, 'the works that you regret not buying are always there to spur you on not to repeat what seems like a missed opportunity'.
Alex Wengraf (Chair) became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1965 and took over the family gallery specialising in Old Master Paintings. From 1975 he was Managing Director of P&D Colnaghi, and since 1979 has been an independent private art dealer. He has published on fine art, dental surgery and medicine, as well as art related subjects. He was Chairman and Chief Trustee of Blackheath Concert Halls until 2000 and is a director OCTO Ltd, training senior personnel for major crisis and disaster management. From shrapnel as a child during the war, to stamps (arranged by aesthetic appeal rather than geography or value), to shards and sea shells, before graduating to fossils, minerals and works of art, he cannot remember or imagine not collecting. Hoarding is another word that has been used.
The Collectors' Evening was supported by Arts Council England, the National Lottery and the Museum of Garden History.