Sarofim School of Fine Arts

Central Texas Collects - Fall 2010

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A Ceramics Exhibit

The act of collecting is a common passion shared across cultures and histories.

There are many answers for why people collect. Some cultures included

collecting as part of their religious practices, as in the case of prehistoric

Egyptian objects buried in tombs. Collecting also can arise from an individual

pursuit. The Renaissance saw the rise of the Wunderkammer, or cabinet of

curiosities, that put objects on display to demonstrate the power and tastes of

the individual owner.

Examining today’s collector, museum scholar Stephen Weil identifies collecting

in his book A Cabinet of Curiosities as an impulse that is a “complex and

irrepressible expression of the inner individual.” Today’s museum or gallery is a

Western construct that puts the collector’s “individual expression” on display,

providing an opportunity for those objects once reserved for the elite to

become part of the general public consciousness. The exhibition, Central Texas

Collects: The Ceramic Spectrum at Southwestern University, brings together

diverse ceramic pieces from private collections that are within miles of each

other but have never been seen together. The exhibit provides a unique

opportunity for the central Texas community to draw connections between

works and celebrate the strength of collecting in the area.

With the present controversies over one-collection shows, such as “The

Imaginary Museum” concept recently explored by New Museum chief curator

Richard Flood, the exhibition at Southwester University provides a positive and

thoughtful approach to exhibiting private collections. By selecting individual

works from multiple collections, curators Chris Campbell and Patrick

Veerkamp are overcoming the stigma attached to exhibitions of private

collections. The exhibition overcomes the isolationist characteristic inherent in

private collections by drawing new connections between works that would not

traditionally be displayed together. The curators are providing an opportunity

for the general public to make associations between disparate objects.

Furthermore, Phillipp Blom in To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of

Collectors and Collecting, identifies collecting as a psychological attempt to “make

sense of the multiplicity and chaos of the world, and perhaps even to find in it

a hidden meaning.” This desire to create order from chaos perhaps belies a

deeper desire to challenge the mortality of humanity. The collections acquired

by individuals are frequently passed down for generations or are gifted to a

collecting institution. Similarly, this timely and reflective exhibition will be

documented and stand as a testament to the history of collecting in central

Texas, recognizing the contributions of individual private collections to the

public realm.

- Anna Walker, writer for upcoming catalogue essay for Central Texas Collects