Five London-based collectors and their collections

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‘The things I keep in this cabinet amount to a kind of self-portrait. The pomegranates are symbols of my Persian heritage. Snoopy stands for my childhood. The figurines were a wedding gift from my Russian father-in-law; they are 19th-century, but look very Pop in that cabinet. The ostrich egg is by Gavin Turk and came from the Art Car Boot Fair, a wonderful event. There are lots of books; I believe a beautiful book is an objet  in its own right. 

Edward Weston is my photographic inspiration. I just spent four days photographing his home in Carmel. And there are many objects that remind me of my travels: Kahlo matchboxes from Mexico; a N-ARCO T-shirt from Medellín; a Lei Xue cola can that recalls a wonderful trip to China. The white LP is a John Currin edition; I love his work because I am obsessed by the divine feminine. The photograph of the nude among the rocks, on the shelf above, is one of my own.’

‘I collect design. I am enormously interested in the man-made things around me. The pot in the centre is by Colin Pearson. The red cast-iron casserole is by Timo Sarpaneva – it’s a classic piece of Finnish design. The pink vacuum cleaner is the first production Dyson. I bought one as soon as it was advertised — I think that is number 61. It didn’t take off in the UK, but the Japanese were delighted with it. I like the animal figures. 

‘Sometimes I buy things just because they make me laugh. It’s a personal collection, so I think it ought to be fun. But there are many important works, too. The large plate with the three figures is by Sam Haile — who would have been one of this country’s leading ceramicists had he not died in a car accident in 1948. He was bringing some pottery back from London when a lorry ran into his van. Everything was destroyed apart from one piece — that piece.’

‘My collection of actors’ portraits started from working on a film. When I was a medical student in the late 1960s, by happenstance I had an Equity card and I got an acting job on the film A Man for All Seasons. So when I set up my practice, the industry started coming in my direction. My photographs of Paul Scofeld, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud would have been at the beginning; the collection just evolved because it seemed quite fun.

‘I like someone in costume; a picture in character is more interesting. That’s why I’ve got Simon Callow in a frock and Ewan McGregor on a motorbike. Dustin Hoffman bought my house and sent me a photograph saying ‘Great House’; I sent him a reply saying: ‘Great Actor’. When I ask younger performers for a photograph, they are delighted. Some have said that it’s like getting their colours at school. They feel like they have arrived.’

‘I am monochrome and minimalist by nature, more into tones and materials than colour. I can’t handle muddle or clutter, and I like it when forms are stripped back to their simplest possible expression: a perfect circle or a semi-circle. Or a triangle, like that pendant lamp by Mario Botta. He mostly designed churches, and when I look at my collection, I see that a lot of the work is by architects. That is unintentional, but I must be drawn to things with an architectural quality. The leather chair stretched on a metal frame was designed by an architect, too, Tito Agnoli. 

‘In my student days I looked at the politics of space, at how the modernists tried to construct a better physical world. The low-cost furniture they made has a market value that is now way higher, but if I am keeping these pieces in circulation, and promoting a turning point in design history, then I’m cool with that.’

‘I was a teenager during the punk explosion of 1977, and these are momentos of my experience — the fanzines, the posters, the flyers that you would pick up at gigs. My bedroom was covered in this stuff, but it was more than decoration: it was my identity, and I kept it because I treasured it. I wasn’t the only kid asking for the posters when they came down. The difference with me is that I saw the graphic value in them. For most people, these things were talismans linked to the music; I divorced the visual culture from the music. 

‘At the time I wasn’t building a collection – it was just my stuff. Now the prices are astronomical, because it really was a high point of British culture, and institutions want material like this. It is important that punk gets into the museums. I mean, otherwise, what do you want them to have — the Osmonds?’


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