Why Collect?

Joseph Rykwert considers what has led people through the ages to make collections, sometimes of the most unlikely objects, and discusses the value of their activities in the latest article in our series on Picturing History.

When we talk about collecting nowadays, we often have collecting works of art in mind, but the truth is that people will collect almost anything. They will collect bottle-tops and cigarette-boxes or they will collect skyscrapers – like Donald Trump of New York, who also collects trophy wives. In the past, they might have collected saints’ relics like Saint Louis, who built the Sainte Chapelle as a kind of jewel-box for them; or one-night-stand girlfriends like Don Giovanni, who had them listed in a catalogue by his man-servant, Leporello.

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