neil cummings

Detail from the collection

During the 1990's I was very interested in the idea of collection for making sense of the world,  and to be honest I'm still interested, take a look at #ObjectOfTheWeek on twitter.

Display Cases

Two images of two Details From the Collection  are reproduced in the catalogue for Pictura Britannica: Art from Britain Sydney, Australia 1997.

Left: African Artifacts, from the collection of Mr & Mrs Winter Salzberg (1995)
Right: Detail from the Collection: Blue private collection, London (1996)

Detail from the Collection: Blue

I started washing all the plastic bottles that passed through our home, and putting them on a shelf. Soon, they started to become a collection. Grouping through colour became a way of organising them, of classifying.

And then I began to make bespoke museum-like display cases from recycled cardboard I found on the street to exhibit the different parts, details, of the collection. The architecture of the display cases, especially with internal lighting, lent real authority.

Different colour themes were displayed as a 'details from the collection' part of a potential series. They became popular in exhibitions at galleries and museums. 

African Artifacts, from the collection of Mr & Mrs Winter

When asked to participate in an exhibition in Salzberg, with the help of the curator I found a family that had a collection of souvenirs. A collection built from visits to local shops and museum gift shops, a collection of 'African' artifacts.

With permission, I constructed a recycled cardboard display case for the disparate collection, and installed it in a niche in their home. Site-specific.

Visitors to the exhibition were able to enter the family home - at specified times- to see the display and chat to the collectors. They also kept the cabinet after the exhibition closed.

This is from the catalogue Pictura Britannica: Art from Britain Sydney, Australia 1997

There are already enough 'things' in the world without the need to add any more

Cummings continues to investigate the way we construct value – social, cultural and financial – through material things. This would include thinking about the 'institutions of display', galleries, museums and shops for instance, as well as the artefacts they contain.

Imagine a museum vitrine, with interior lighting in which plinths present vessels of immediate and luminescent elegance; works of art of obvious value and importance displayed in classic museological convention.

Approaching the seductive display across the gallery floor, the visitor discovers that not only does the vitrine lack the heavy plate glass to protect the contents, but that the mahogany was actually of a less solid order; merely found cardboard glued together to approximate the authority of museum display.

Just as surprisingly, on closer inspection, the contents of the case turn out not to be important example of Roman glass, but domestic plastic bottles, deprived of their labels and revealing beautiful shades of the palest to the deepest blue.

By a process of close attention to the conventions of display, Cummings has conjured from the discarded, a work of effortless glamour and sharp critique.



Related projects include these sculptures, The Value of ThingsCollected and this intervention in Loot


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Museum Of Contemporary Art
140 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000

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