Hoarders or collectors? Our frightened society has forgotten the difference

New York art show The Keeper celebrates our poetic obsession with objects, but how many of us simply surround ourselves with familiar, reassuring rubbish?

The exhibition and these reactions suggest a new chapter in the history of collecting. The psychology of the collector seems more traumatised, anxious and defensive. The type of collecting the New Museum draws attention to tends towards the repetitive, and may be hard to explain to or share with others: amassing infinite numbers of the same thing suggests not so much an interest in the meaning or history of objects or a feel for their poetry as a need to surround oneself with reassuring familiarity. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins,” wrote TS Eliot. Is this a symptom of the same fearfulness fuelling Donald Trump’s run at the presidency, with his offer to defend and protect Americans? Someone out there definitely has a huge collection of Trump memorabilia.

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