Deborah Wang - Objects and the spaces they live in

Deborah Wang, Toronto, Ontario.

Artistic director, curator and designer.

What do you collect?


I need to confess that I mostly have unintentional collections. There are things I want (and acquire) and things I can’t throw away (which accumulate). There are things I would have more of if I didn’t live with someone else, like glassware and small bowls. Most of what I have, have become collections.


I collect books, objects and art. I also have an accumulation of empty boxes, old magazines, and “bits and bobs.” The “bits and bobs” are things that I think might be useful in the future, like pieces of bubble wrap, random screws, twist ties, leftover pieces of wood.


I also have more chairs than I need. Are they a collection? I have a lot of shoes and plants. Are they a collection?

How did your collection start? What is the first thing you acquired?


My collection of books predates my other collections. There are hundreds of books at my house, divided between a long bookshelf in the dining room and more informal piles in the study. One of the first architecture books I acquired was S, M, L, XL, about two decades ago. I couldn’t find a copy in Toronto, but saw it in an art museum in Sydney when I was visiting an old friend. More recent book purchases have been more impulsive. Something just catches my eye. Sometimes it’s shiny (like the mirror-finish foil in a SO-IL book), or it’s a paragraph that I want to read over and over again. Sometimes it’s a drawing or sketch.


My art collection probably started in earnest when I was working for the artist and gallerist Katharine Mulherin. I didn’t have much money then, but there were some smaller works by artists she represented that I loved and was able to afford.

How do you collect?


I collect impulsively, finding or purchasing things that I like. Part of this is emotional. I might find myself in an emotional state and buy something that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Part of it is circumstantial. I find something (like a rock) or I’m in a new place.

Do they serve a purpose? Are they functional or purely decorative?


I think all collections serve a purpose -- an emotional or psychic purpose. We collect by instinct and desire, probably more than we do intellectually.


In general, how attached are you to these objects? If you lost everything, would you start your collection over again?


I’d wager I’m pretty attached to things, being a somewhat emotional person. If I lost everything, I’d be devastated. Maybe I’d start over with less things; leave room for the feeling of loss.