"I was seven when the second world war started so I was evacuated away – that was almost a missing piece of my life from seven to 14. At that very point when the war ended and I started to go to art school, having never had the opportunity to collect anything, at the age of 14 I went into a junk shop in Gravesend where the art school was and I bought a painting of the Queen Mary – an outsider art painting, a papier mache tray and a complete set of Shakespeare – because I’d never had any books either. Since then I have always been collecting.
In the exhibition there’s a whole collection of shell boxes and things decorated with shells. That really started when I was asked to do residency at the National Gallery, which meant I was going in every day on the train. On the walk to the station I passed three or four charity shops, here I saw this rather pretty little box covered with shells and bought that, and the next day in another charity shop there was another one, and suddenly I was collecting them. And then you watch out for them – most charity shops even now have something like that, so then you’re looking for them. One of my favourite objects I have collected are the boots worn by General Tom Thumb, the Edwardian Barnum and Bailey Circus midget. In the show in Bath, there’s a showcase with his boots, some tiny little visiting cards and some photographs of him. So if I had to choose… I mean it would change all the time, but at this moment I would say they were among my favourite things.
My artwork is also inspired by my collections – this really is what this show is all about – because it equally presents my work and the collections, and a lot of the work. For instance there’s a series called Dreams which are little sculptures and all the elements in those would have been originally part of collections, so this how demonstrates the crossover very well.
I’m coming off the collection addiction now though. I think in a curious way, because I’ve been having these shows, it’s come to a culmination. [Yeah right – yell out his daughter and wife in the background]. There’s a certain amount of teasing… but I think when you see it beautifully showcased, it’s quite impressive – so I’m pleased and really quite proud of my collections. I still would really like to have a painting by Alfred Wallis…"
Sir Peter Blake, “The Godfather of Pop Art”, may be best known for his iconic artwork – namely his cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, however over recent years it is his private collections of art curios, taxidermy and memorabilia that have garnered him increasing attention. Originally never created for public display – collecting has been somewhat of an obsession for the artist since he was a child – Blake’s marvelous and extraordinary collections encompass collage and folk art, pop ephemera, works by his artist friends, autographs and marching troupes of toy elephants. Following on from his exhibition at the Museum of Everything, A Museum for Myself at The Holburne Museum in Bath presents both his collections and artwork together for the first time, beautifully exploring the line between his collecting and art-making.
A Museum for Myself runs until 4 September at The Holburne Museum, Bath
Text by Lucia Davies