Walter Benjamin.
On Collectors and Collecting

V–A–C x CEM (Centre for Experimental Museology)

Considerations on the phenomenon of collection-eer-ing.

Walter Benjamin was a philosopher and art theorist. His essay “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Production” became crucial to understanding the new conditions for the presence of art in industrial society.

The figure of the collector, in the opinion of the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, became one of the defining figures for the nineteenth century and for our contemporary era. A passionate collector himself, Benjamin was convinced that each collector represents a special form of grasping history and the material world close to the Marxist concept of historical materialism.

Three of Benjamin’s texts are collected in the book “On Collectors and Collecting”, two of which – the programmatic essay “Edward Fuchs: Collector and Historian” and an excerpt from his “Arcades” opus – are published in Russian for the first time.

Benjamin’s “Arcades” project, in which he strived to research the origins of the contemporary era, was undertaken over many years. The work was not completed and consists of a set of quotations, comments and extracts in several thematic sections (the so-called ‘convolutes’). One of them, convolute “N” under the title of “Collector” is presented in our edition.

Perhaps," Benjamin writes, "the most deeply hidden motive of the person who collects could be described this way: he takes up the struggle against dispersion. Right from the start, the great collector is struck by the confusion, by the scatter in which the things of the world are found.

– Walter Benjamin