Many answers have been given to the question “Why do people collect?” Too many for comfort suggest neuroses of various kinds. Collectors do it because they feel alienated from the real world and must create one of their own. They do it to be godlike and controlling. They do it out of pride or jealousy, or to keep objects away from others.
Ever the optimist, I prefer a more positive interpretation. Society turns into a culture when it shows an interest in preserving its past. In the personality of an individual collector, such an impulse to gather, preserve, understand and pass along can be highly developed.
In my own case it also had something to do with a “love at first sight” response to the beauty of a Philco Predicta. I was in Peter Goldmark’s office at the time. Goldmark, who had invented the 331/3 long playing record, was head of CBS labs. I was there to marvel at a new technology, the EVR 8mm half-frame film cartridge system, which promised to do for consumer home video what the LP had done for audio. I found, however, that I couldn’t keep my eyes off an “old” television set that stood in the corner like a sentinel, like a commanding piece of sculpture. Alas, the EVR arrived at the same time as re-recordable video tape and CBS had to take one of the largest write-downs in its history. But I came away that day having seen the most beautiful television ever made; a symbol of my conviction that TV could be art, and would be my art.
Once caught in this way, I set out to acquire one, and then a few other, older pieces; but experienced surprising difficulty in finding them. It struck me why: because the very ubiquity of television had led to a kind of neglect. Because TV was widely seen as banal, its hallowed instruments had been devalued and lost. So it happened that I set about securing the most important of these totems – milestones in technology or design – these living pieces of furniture. In this, I “stand on the shoulders” of Arnold Chase and Jack Davis, among others, whose pioneering work immeasurably enriched the nascent collection I had cobbled together of the years, giving it form and distinction.
(to be continued…)