Collections And Collectors. A Few Opinions

Anyone can become a collector, and anything can be collected: matchboxes, pipes, candy bag stickers, paintings, traditional items, arms, books, and so forth. It seems that the Aztec king Montezuma collected and/or "collected" people with various malformations which he kept in cages in his zoo. Bluebeard collected and/or "collected" wives, and Harpagon money, being very cautious about squandering his precious "collection." Neither pathology, nor mercantilism can be ignored. Certainly, there is the good "stereotypic" collector who brings together various objects for his own pleasure and/or the "esthetic pleasure" he feels when he looks at them. It may be an extension of the self, an ex-position of individuality, of the persona that distinguishes him from others, collectors and non-collectors. On the other hand, this becomes a concrete thing and turns into a symbolic capital which the collector will capitalize on without delay. The handiest example is Georges de Bellio, "the Impressionists' friend." Aside from wealth, the Romanian who had settled in Paris also had taste and flair, not only because he bought the paintings of unknown artists who were not well-regarded by the critics, such as Monet and Renoir, at a moment when the new style was not ready for acceptance; he also "lobbied" for them, encouraging others to buy their works too, and even gave them money when they were in need. Thus he gathered a famous collection, earning prestige not only as an art collector, but also as a man. Another interesting case is that of Ion Minulescu. The apartment in which he lived with his wife and daughter became, especially owing to the paintings by contemporary Romanian artists, a sui generis extension of his personality: this explains the portraits depicting him plumpish, with a cigar in the corner of his mouth, wearing a chic vest and bowtie, next to various cartoons that contribute to the demythologization of the "Poet," as well as other paintings and icons. The objects are easily integrated in a space dominated by an atmosphere reminding of his poems, the so typical ineffable grief concealed in easygoingness. It's a different story with his next-door neighbor, the novelist Liviu Rebreanu and his collection of icons. The specific style, harsher, favoring exact, rigorous structures, may be detected in the very arrangement of the icons – clumped together, filled with a tension that overwhelms from the start, which reminds of the muddled, even aggressive dispositions of his heroes. It would be hard to imagine another collection, or another selection of the icons, nor other, less massive, furniture filling up the whole living room. Passionate or mercantile, disinterested and honest, acquiring art objects or objects in which they identify virtual value, or uncommon objects, arranging them in a space that amplifies their value, artists or "simple citizens," genuine collectors may say – paraphrasing Flaubert – ma collection c'est moi.

by Simona Brânzaru