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Some sample items from collectionof.net (screenshot by author)

We’ve all wished we could break into an art collector’s house at times, just to take a look at the wealth of objects out of the public eye. Aside from being awesome aggregations of unique things, collections also communicate something about a person, their aesthetic tastes and their own preferences. Collectionof is a new website that brings the private stashes of some cultural figures to public view. Here, you can check out artist Cory Arcangel’s magazine choices or Brooklyn musician C. Spencer Yeh’s CD rack. Of course, some of it’s for sale, too.

The Kingsboro Press’s Issue 6 on collectionsof.net

Collectionof showcases collections on an individual basis, displaying clean grids of object icons that are clickable to a full view that includes a written description and larger image of the collected thing in question. The site is totally a lot of fun to explore; it’s neat to see Cory Arcangel riff on an early CD game that inspired him or read musician Alan Licht‘s wonder at a 70s Bruce Springsteen bootleg. But peaking behind closed doors isn’t all that Collectionof is for. Indie stores and art galleries have their own individual pages, with the majority of items up for sale. Check out Art Since the Summer of ’69, a gallery featuring emerging artists, or The Kingsboro Press, a Brooklyn outfit that publishes zines, compilations and photobooks. For small shops like these, Collectionof presents an intriguingly different and decidedly non-corporate set up for an online store, one that allows us to poke through mood-boards in a way similar to a choice Tumblr feed, but with the option to buy instead of reblog. Talk about buying art online? This site feels like the future to me, a much more democratic solution than the VIP Art Fair.

Collectionof ends up feeling pretty commercial. The “celebrity” (to some) collections are fascinating little gatherings of arty things, but in the context of stores peddling similar items, it’s less about enjoying the eclecticism and more about pushing the viewer towards something they’ll want to buy. Not a bad goal, but not my favorite either. Indie producers could use a digital storefront like Collection of, though. It’s a standardized template that would allow for a clean, public and easily browsable face for small shops that are often inaccessible, whether it’s a factor of distance or a hipster quotient that keeps patrons from poking around.

Where I’d like to see Collectionof go is in the direction of a full social network. If this crew of Brooklyn hipsters can have a taste-profile with some random objects they like, why can’t I? The website could be a meeting ground of indie aesthetics, with people bonding over shared affinities for old death metal cassettes and 90s poetry pamphlets. Publishers and stores could keep their profiles and operate in direct connection with their fans rather than just provide another way to buy their products. The Chinese social networking site Douban has become such a stalwart of the country’s culture crowd. Book and author pages get critiqued by incisive commenting, events get publicized and popularized, artists display and sell their work. It’s an online meeting place that doesn’t feel half as constricted and commercialized as Collectionof. Does that kind of site exist in the US? If it doesn’t, it should.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...