Empire of Things
Empire of Things explores the relationships among objects, the people who make them, and the people who collect and display them. The objects assembled for this exhibition showcase the geographic diversity of the Spencer’s collection while revealing patterns of acquisition in the history of the modern museum.
Despite the opulent beauty of the objects in this exhibition, the selected works are intended to provoke critical thought and invite commentary on museums and the practice of art collecting. In one section of the installation objects are arranged to evoke the feeling of a domestic space. European furniture sits alongside a Chinese folding screen, which has been placed near an African chair. This installation does not constitute a period room, but rather represents the aspirations of the collector, expressed through the careful yet idiosyncratic accumulation of treasured objects.
The lives of objects take on particular relevance in Empire of Things. It is an exhibition that asks where things come from, why they look the way they do, what they have meant to their collectors and inheritors, and what, finally, earned them their places within the walls of a museum, the ultimate “Empire of Things.”