Spend enough time with artists and you’ll find that most are collectors of one sort or another.
, for example, famously indulges his appetite for Old Masters paintings and works from the 19th century. Others accumulate far less precious things: knickknacks, tchotchkes, even restaurant menus. Why? Koons has said that his collection serves as source material for his own output; in other words, art begets more art. But a better answer, one expansive enough to encompass even the most mundane tastes, is that things beget emotions.
This April, a pop-up exhibition within Art Brussels 2017 explored this proposition. Curated by Jens Hoffmann and Piper Marshall, “Mementos: Artists’ Souvenirs, Artefacts, and Other Curiosities,” sought, in Hoffmann’s telling,“to bring in a completely different idea of value that isn’t always present in an art fair itself.” The curators asked 73 artists to loan them objects of personal or emotional value, along with a brief text detailing the story behind each object.
Few of those objects in the exhibition had any inherent or resale value. In fact, the show offered up any number of things that make us ask why one might want to own them at all, things that, were they not presented in the sort of large vitrines you might find in a natural history museum, could easily be mistaken for castoffs destined for Goodwill or the garbage.
contributed a dessicated teabag, for instance. While it happened to dry in a sculpturally compelling way—she likes its “unusual shape”—Prouvost chose the bag for the web of associations connected with it. For one, it reminded her of the years she spent assisting the artist
, whom she considers her “conceptual godfather.” In the studio, Latham always insisted they dry and then reuse teabags. “So, the teabag,” Prouvost explains, “became a symbol of my experience with him.” Tea has also been a component of her work for quite a while. For a spring exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery
, she contributed a number of teabags drying on a radiator grill; teapots figure in her piece Wantee
(2013), which is in part a fictional meditation that reimagines Prouvost’s grandfather as a conceptual artist.