This interview explores the origins of the African art collection of the psychoanalyst Julien Quackelbeen. A small Ikoko mask of the Pende tribe was the first object in his collection. This was given to him when he was just five years old and was then stolen. In this way it was to become the mythical first object of the collection he has been cultivating for more than seventy years. His fascination for Congolese art lies in what he calls “the mastering of the drive” which this art witnesses so strongly. This mastering of the drive is also implied in collecting in general. Several of its aspects are highlighted: the urge to possess, the financial aspect, fetishism, the viewing pleasure.
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In Freudian and post-Freudian theory we find elements for a clinic of the collector. For instance, Karl Abraham’s notion of the “anal character” has been used as a basis for the psychological profile of people who accumulate. But although most collectors do not present with these clinical symptoms, the idea of considering collecting as a pathological profile loses all meaning in a modern world so oriented towards materialism. In our society the collector is almost a prototype for what is considered normal. Therefore, it is not in a psychological sense that we need to look for his singularity, but rather within the context of a specific economy, which we can understand through George Bataille’s definition of a “general economy”. The collector is not a normal consumer because the basic idea of his own economy is not to accumulate but to spend. The problem of the collectors’ economy – that of the true collector – is that it is not based on usefulness or profit but rather on pure loss. In contrast to the behaviour of the miser, the collector’s behaviour could even be considered desirable, highly prized as indeed it was during the Renaissance. It is the extravagance of the person who spends on himself and others with flair and without calculation. But however civilised in our modern world, this virtue is always associated with scandals or even subversion.
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The Austrian artist Arnulf Rainer has been collecting outsider art for half a century already. In the Vienna of the 1950s he himself was regarded as a mad outsider. In 1994 Rainer worked with psychotic artists at the mental hospital in Gugging. His interest is not so much in the visual aspect of outsider art, but rather in the way madness moves the hand across the page.
Not without irony, the author relates the story of the origin and development of what, in the course of about 45 years of collecting, would become probably the world’s largest collection of Art Brut, Naive and Outsider Art. Charlotte Zander started collecting as a young adult when for the first time she began to earn some money. The objects of her collecting passion were so-called votive pictures and gifts. After her marriage her interest shifted to avant-garde art and still later to Art Brut and Naive Art. The author follows her path from Cologne, via Heidelberg to Munich, where she founded an art gallery and eventually her own museum at Schloss Bönnigheim. With respect to the addictive aspects of collecting, the author stresses the craving to possess an object and the thrill experienced with each new acquisition.
In this paper the author sketches the coming into being and the development of his father’s collection. Thirty five years ago, Leszek Macak acquired his first items of folk art as decoration for his newly built house. Soon his collector’s passion made itself felt, directed in particular towards the folk art of the Polish mountain regions. These recollected episodes illustrate Macak’s tireless efforts to expand his collection as well as his sincere love and admiration for the artists. A chance event resulted in a significant change of focus for the collection, from folk art towards art brut. Finally, some further vicissitudes of his father’s collection are mentioned.