THE COLLECTING INSTINCT

Some of us are collectors and others are not. I suppose that to some extent we may be born that way. But I also believe that there are substantive differences between the presumed collecting instinct and the state of being a “pack rat.” Are these both instincts, or are they learned behaviors? Are they both to be avoided, or only when they get out of hand? And, what constitutes being out of hand? I’ve heard about a person who was crushed to death by the stuff he hoarded in his apartment, and about others who have had serious crises by being literally unable to move in their domiciles due to all their stuff. The fear of getting rid of stuff has recently even merited categorization as a quasi-medical condition (though I’m not aware that it’s quite made it into the psychiatric classification system) called disposophobiaâ„¢. I kid you not! If you are still incredulous (or if you feel that you may warrant their services), check out the following link: http://www.theplan.com/clutter2/. This site states, “If you or anyone you know are living in conditions like this, it its time to contact the clutter management experts.” There is even a beeper-carrying “consultant” in this field who is ready to respond to such dire emergencies!

How does art collecting fit into this schema? Why do we collect art? Are some reasons better than others? To get you started thinking about this topic, I’d just like to relate a recent experience. While milling about minutes before the bidding began in the annual auction sponsored by a well-established Bay Area art gallery, I overheard a conversation between a wide-eyed collector and a gallery employee, in which the collector stated something like, “Well, I’ve already got a Picasso and a Matisse. So now I just need one Miro.” Is this an acceptable approach to collecting, or can one do better? –Kobi

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