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I had not read any Bruce Chatwin before this – I was attracted by the fact that it was about a porcelain collector through the vicissitudes of 2oth century European brushes with both fascism and communism. Bruce Chatwin spent several years at Sotheby’s so I presume he knows whereof he speaks! The collector’s mentality is well brought out, and the set-pieces (the meeting of the writer with Utz in Prague, the funeral which begins the book) are wonderfully well evoked. One can almost smell the atmosphere of life behind the iron curtain! I was struck by this endorsement of the claims of a collector against the viewpoint of a museum curator
“An object in a museum case… must suffer the de-natured existence of an animal in the zoo. In any museum the object dies – of suffocation and the public gaze – whereas private ownership confers on the owner the right and the need to touch, […] The collector’s enemy is the museum curator. Ideally museums should be looted every fifty years, and their collections returned to circulation…”
A lovely short(!) read for anyone interested in 20th century history – or collecting.
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