Collecting Lesson 3: Contemporary Artist Examples

Explore Personal, Professional and Institutional Collecting through Art
Whitfield Lovell, Hand XIV, 1998, charcoal, graphite, and pastel on paper

Students are introduced to artistic practices that use personal, professional and institutional collecting, as well as a wide array of contemporary artists employing these practices. Symbolism, anthropology and archival information are presented and discussed.

Subjects: Art, Anthropology, Museum practices, Aesthetics

Suggested Time Frame:

Personal Collecting: 90 minutes*
Professional Collecting: 90 minutes*
Institutional Collecting: 90 minutes*

Total time: 3-6 class periods over one week
*less class time if readings are done as homework 

Based on your curriculum, focus and time available, select one, two or all of the three of the following types of collecting to cover with your students. 


Personal Collecting 

  • Students will read essays on artistic practice
  • Students will compare and contrast artistic form and content
  • Students will review brainstorming webs of collecting

Professional Collecting 

  • Students will explore how professionals in other fields utilize collecting methods
  • Students will compare and contrast artistic and anthropological practices of collecting
  • Students will discuss aesthetic questions and form opinions in relation to works of art

Institutional Collecting 

  • Students will read information about artists and museums
  • Students will describe and discussing ideas as they relate to museum displays
  • Students will compare and contrast museum displays from historical perspectives
  • Students will examine cultural beliefs about ownership and value within institutional collections
Stefan Hoderlein, Matching Jacket and Pants, 1996, Slide projection, 3 views, Installation at Gallerie Fricke, Berlin
Stefan Hoderlein, Matching Jacket and Pants, 1996, Slide projection, 3 views, Installation at Gallerie Fricke, Berlin

Personal Collecting

Most people have a personal collection. Whether it is fine art, Beanie Babies or baseball cards, humans have an instinctive desire to gather objects that have personal meaning to them. Many artists also have personal collections; some find ways to use these collected objects in their work. Artists Stefan Hoderlein and Whitfield Lovell both integrate their personal collections in symbolic ways to convey ideas about the world. The media or art forms in which they work differ, affecting what is communicated to the viewer.


Artists who collect: Stefan Hoderlein   Artists who collect: Whitfield Lovell  Hoderlein/Lovell Comparison Chart  
  1. Present Artists who collect: Stefan Hoderlein   and Artists who collect: Whitfield Lovell handouts.
  2. Print or project reproductions of artists’ works for class viewing.
  3. Research New Media at
  4. Use the handout Hoderlein/Lovell Comparison Chart to discuss the artists’ work and practice.
Portia Munson, Pink Project (detail), 1994, Installation of found pink objects, Courtesy of the artist
Portia Munson, Pink Project (detail), 1994, Installation of found pink objects, Courtesy of the artist

Professional Collecting

Many professionals rely on a collection as a part of their practice—forensic scientists rely on extensive databanks of specimens and fingerprints to help solve mysteries of identity; meteorologists collect data on weather patterns to predict the paths of oncoming tropical storms; and anthropologists spend hours, weeks, even years "in the field" gathering information on a certain culture. It is from the fastidious, sometimes meticulous, procedures of anthropologists who gather extensive archives of cultural objects as a part of their practice that artists Portia Munson and Karsten Bott glean inspiration. Portia Munson and Karsten Bott’s practice of collecting can be compared to anthropologists and other professionals whose work strives to reveal new information about culture.


Artists who collect: Portia Munson   Artists who collect: Karsten Bott  Rem Koolhas LeAlan Jones 
  1. Revisit Brainstorming Webs from Lesson 1.
  2. Review and discuss Other Professionals who collect: LeAlan Jones or Rem Koolhas.
  3. Compare and contrast the artistic practice of collecting and the anthropological practice of collecting.

    Anthropology is the study of humanity—our physical characteristics as animals, and our non-biological characteristics collectively referred to as culture. Anthropology has four sub-disciplines: biological or physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.

  4. Present and explore an Anthropological Study.

    Suggested Websites:
    This on-line book, by an anthropology professor at the Teachers College of Columbia University, focuses on the lives of people in a small town north of Chicago called Appleton. Harve Varenne’s work studies how the microcosm of a small town reveals larger themes about Americans’ self-image.
    This website contains the archive work of Mass-Observation, a social research group founded in 1937 in Britain. The founders’ aim was to create an “anthropology of ourselves.” They recruited a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers to study the everyday lives of people in Britain.
    This website contains photographs taken by anthropologist John W. Bennett while he was in occupied Japan, 1948-1951.
    This website contains extensive information about a study of the Andaman Island peoples.

  5. Determine the following criteria for the study:
  6. - Who is enacting the study?

    - What are they studying?

    - What do they collect in their study?

    - What does this collection reveal?

    - Why are they studying the subject?

    - What is the end product of the study?

    - How is this study seen, shared, and/or displayed?

  7. Present Artists who collect: Portia Munson  and Artists who collect: Karsten Bott.
  8. Hang up reproductions of work by Portia Munson and Karsten Bott:
  9. Discuss the Aesthetic Response Questions found on each artists' page.
"Raid the Icebox with Andy Warhol", 1969-70, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
"Raid the Icebox with Andy Warhol"1969-70, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

Institutional Collecting

Institutions are often responsible for collections. Libraries create and maintain collections of books, while institutions like local municipalities collect and archive information about births, marriages, and deaths. A museum is one of the earliest forms of institutional collecting. Museums collect objects, which are put on display for the study, interpretation, and enjoyment of audiences and ultimately for the preservation of heritage. Mark Dion and Andy Warhol are two artists whose work questions institutional collecting and display in natural history and art museums


Other Professionals who collectMuseums and Cultural Change 
Artists who collect: Warhol, Raid the Icebox Artists who collect: Mark Dion 
  1. Present text on Early Museums.
  2. Describe and discuss:
  3. - Cabinets of Curiosity 

    - Early Museums

    - Dilemma Labels and problems in museum display

  4. Use the Analysis Questions to further discuss issues related to institutional collecting.
  5. Present handouts for Artists who collect: Warhol, Raid the Icebox, and Artists who collect: Mark Dion
  6. Project or display reproductions of work by Warhol and Dion.
  7. Explore these artists and ideas using the Analysis Questions in the handouts.

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Critical Thinking
Creative Process
Historical Context
Media and Related Items
Collecting Lessons Powerpoint
Collecting Lessons Powerpoint