I VISITED London’s Barbican Centre last week to see an offbeat show.

Entitled ‘Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector,’ it’s described as offering an insight into the influences and obsessions of some key artists.

It sounds a good idea. When Salisbury’s Art Trail comes around this autumn, part of the fun is to poke around other people’s houses and see what’s on the mantelpiece. It’s not just the art the artist’s themselves have bought, as the knick-knacks, the keepsakes and curiosities are more revealing.

Not always revealing in the case of the Barbican show, and not always magnificent either. Some of the participants, such as Peter Blake, were just as eclectic in their collecting as you would imagine. Others defied expectation. Howard Hodgkin’s room was devoted to prints from the Asian subcontinent. Another artist has assembled a vast range of rather ordinary fabric prints by someone called Vera.

The displays that made most sense were by Blake, photographer Martin Parr, Damien Hirst and Edmund de Waal. The late Andy Warhol put in an appearance, so to speak, with a kitsch display of china cookie jars. This wasn’t the whole story. After his death whole rooms full of stuff were found, most of it still wrapped up. Apparently, Warhol’s interest was in the chase; once purchased, his ‘trophies’ lost their allure.

I am not a great collector, but this is familiar psychology. I have bought, sold, swapped and traded-in more guitars than I care to remember, and many I parted with would be quite valuable today. I’ve never been dazzled by gold knobs or abalone inlays: no, every trade was made believing the next model would make me a better player. And whaddya know? It didn’t work.

For a couple of years I became addicted to eBay. This time it was ‘film-era’ camera equipment, and that was all about the chase. For 20 years as a commercial photographer I’d managed with two cameras and two lenses for each; suddenly I had five or six systems, with every available lens. So I understand the shopaholic: there is a short-lived high with every new purchase, most of the pleasure being before rather than after.

We recently moved house, a cause of shock and despair as we realised just how much stuff had been squirrelled away. It also caused a radical rethink, and now everything is up for sale: cameras, lenses, guitars, china. Indeed anything I see lying around the house once it starts to look dusty.

So it’s back to eBay, but this time I’m selling, and our shop in Winchester Street, a guitar store when purchased, has come full circle.

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