Hepworth gallery celebrates the vital art of collecting

Becky Harlow with her collection of Mr Potato Heads
Becky Harlow with her collection of Mr Potato Heads
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Future investment, sentimentality or just because you’re that way inclined – there are lots of reasons why people become collectors of ‘things’.

Becky Harlow, schools co-ordinator at The Hepworth Wakefield, has what might be the best reason to own a collection.

“It makes people laugh, it makes me laugh, it’s fun,” says Harlow.

She recently revealed to fellow art professionals, at The Hepworth, her own, slightly odd, collection. She collects Mr Potato Heads. Yes, as in the children’s toy shaped like a potato onto which you can stick lots of different configurations of hats, noses, eyes, ears and moustaches.

“I’ve got about 40 of them and they are in the spare room on shelves. Every now and then I go in and give them a dusting,” laughs Harlow – she has a sense of humour about her own collection.

“Growing up in the 1980s I had a Mr Potato Head, but it was when I was in my early twenties when I went to visit a friend in America and she showed me all these other Mr Potato Heads that had just been released over there that and opened my eyes to this whole new world. There are some very keen collectors out there, who have all the paraphernalia, all the different sets of clothes that you can buy for the figures – I don’t think I’m at that level. But I do have one that was released when the Transformers movie was out and there were themed Mr Potato Heads – I’ve got Optimash Prime.”

When she got married, there was also a gift of a Mr and Mrs Potato Head newlyweds.

“Most of them have a sentimental attachment for me personally – they remind me of a specific event or person,” she says.

“But really the reason I collect them is just because I think they’re funny – and other people think so too. They make people smile. Which I think is a pretty good reason to have a collection.”

The reason Harlow is sharing her collection is because this weekend The Hepworth is inviting people from around the region to go to the gallery and show off their own collections for a new project called I Collect.

Running this weekend and inspired by the new exhibition To Hope, To Tremble, To Live: Modern and Contemporary Works from the David Roberts Collection. Tomorrow and Sunday the gallery is asking Yorkshire collectors to bring the things they hold dear to their hearts for a whole weekend of ‘show and tell’.

A spokesman said: “Whether it’s stamps, family photos, holiday souvenirs or football scarves – we’d love to see what our visitors have assembled and hear why they are passionate about it.”

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield said: “The role of collecting is vital to us and private and public collections are central to enabling all our exhibitions and displays. Through the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection, the Hepworth Family Gift and generous loans from national and private art collectors such as Jeffrey and Ruth Sherwin and David Roberts, we have been able to give our visitors access to a breadth of art not often displayed outside of London. The weekend-long I Collect event will be a great way to celebrate the art of collecting.”

Budding collectors will be invited to the Collector’s Lounge, discuss their collection with a member of the curatorial team.

Collectors need to register details online at www.hepworthwakefield.org/icollect/or on 01924 247360.