Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Object Lessons

Ydessa Hendeles, a Canadian artist, gathered thousands of photographs of people with their teddy bears for “Partners (The Teddy Bear Project).” Credit Robert Keziere, via Ydessa Hendeles and the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto

William Hamilton, Object Lessons: The New Museum Explores Why We Keep Things, 14 July 2016

Curators at the New Museum have created an exhibit with over 4,000 objects that examines the various ways we collect and own items.

We live in a sharing economy of collaborative consumption – services, not stuff.  Crowdsourcing, peer-to-peer rentals like Airbnb: An interest, exemplified by millennials, in a temporary ownership of goods.

Apps, not objects.

What, then, to make of objects?  In a culture being redefined by the way it consumers, what to make of people who collect things, who keep things?  What to make of the personal archives, the private universes, the psychical stabs at permanence and immortality that collectors create?

With over 4,000 objects representing more than two dozen collectors, including contemporary artists making art conceived by collecting, Massimiliano Gioni, the museum’s artistic director, and his team of curators have mounted a remarkable series of object lessons about what it means to “keep”, the relationship of possession to loss, the madness inherent in love, and the undeniable importance of the individual’s voice in recording and interpreting history and its sweep.

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