SEARCH THE ENTIRE CATALOGUE BY ARTIST NAME, TITLE, GENRE & KEYWORD

James Collins

James Collins (Born in Northampton, UK in 1939) was a conceptual artist, photographer, painter and writer-critic. Moving to the USA at the age of 31 he frequently travelled back and forth between the countries until finally settling in his land of birth until his death in 2021.

 

His earliest work was as an art theorist and he found a home in the US wing of the conceptual art group Art & Language that was based around Joseph Kosuth and the Fox publication. He wrote a number of articles for the group and also a number of stand alone important artist’s books such as Revision and Prescription in 1971 but was criticised by some in the British wing, of the oft intolerant group, because of his commercial articles in art magazines. He exhibited in the important Narrative Art exhibition in Galerie Templon, Paris in 1979 and before that in Lucy Lippard’s 3,549,000 conceptual initiative in Buenos Aires.

 

In the mid 70s Collins created a number of very important conceptual art works usually referred to as Introduction Pieces – he accosted strangers in the street and asked them to take part in small, easy actions (such as showing him some treasured item in their possession or introducing two strangers to each other). Usually these works were accompanied by photographs by Collins or even a commercial produced strip of portraits if they could be persuaded to follow the artist to one of the photobooths usually found in London’s train stations and post offices. He also collected signed certificates by the participants indicating their agreement to be taking part in a work of art: sometimes those certificates were in themselves the artwork. These clearly conceptual works overlapped the artist’s increasing interest in photography.

 

He began to be better known as a photographer in the mid-1970s when a series of colour and b/w images of himself typically gazing at women – usually with a considered physical or abstracted gap between them – were exhibited giving the impression of alienation or even distrust between the figures. These works were often considered as part of an emerging movement concerned with inferred narrative in art called “Story Art” along with other artists such as Bill Beckley, Mac Adams and Peter Hutchinson. His later photographic career was even more concerned with erotica – with his hiring models to pose for him often with a mild sexual frisson.

 

His method of creation usually took the form of short Super 8 films from which he selected still images for display. In some installations (such as at Documenta 6) he showed still images alongside the films as installations.

 

Collin’s career continued with him creating many paintings in pastel or oils again of women (usually using photography or film as source material) but his seeming obsession with the female form and its sexuality became tired and even objectionable with the rise in feminist criticism of the “male gaze”. By 1988 as exhibitions began to be less frequent he regarded his career as being in the doldrums and while he continued to paint (mostly in pastels), he became something of a recluse with depression and other mental health issues. He continued to take photographs throughout his late career but the imagery was often his own painted works.

 

While the criticism of his pronounced “male gaze” is a fair one, Collins artistic practice is both historically and aesthetically important – some have suggested his post-modernist objectification of gender roles predates the work of Richard Prince and Jeff Koons and much of his mid-career and late photographic output may be seen as studies in gender psychology. His death in 2021 was sadly a lonely one.

INTIMATE OBSESSIONS. 1983.

Berlin: Redman Gallery, 1983 24 x 16.5cm, 32pp plus card covers. Exhibition  catalogue for a show of oil and pastel paintings by Collins of women. Many of the images are sexualised - with the women's clothing in disarray or their panties on display, other images are of women walking away from the artist. Text in German and English. 47 colour images of works. Time has not been kind to this body of work - it appears creepy at times and perhaps reflects the artist's slightly uncomfortable relationship to women (which can be read in his personal letters to lovers and ex-wives). VG+.

£30.00

REMEMBRANCE OF TIMES PAST. 1983.

Stockholm: Galleri 16, 1983 10.5 x 15cm, 2pp artist's postcard issued for a solo painting show with one pastel painting "Big Bottle, Beutiful Bottom, Blue Bike" reproduced on the front. Verso minimal gallery details. VG+.

£30.00

ON THE BED. 1984.

Torino: Paolo Torino Gallery, 1984 10.5 x 15cm, 2pp artist's postcard with reproduction of a detail from the title work (pastel, 144 x 168cm) in colour on the front. Verso minimal gallery details. VG+.

£25.00

STRIP OF PHOTOBOOTH PHOTOGRAPHS OF COLLINS & A WOMAN. 1984. “VENICE THE WORST CITY IN ITALY FOR LOVE”

Venice: s.p., 1984 12.5 x 9.8cm, commercially processed b/w photobooth strip of images of Collins along with a woman who we have not yet been able to identify (we suspect one of Collins' life partners)  holding up a printed Venice Guide. On the back of the strip in Collins' handwriting it reads "Oct 23 '84 Venice the worst city in Italy for love/I hate Venice, me with Thomasa (hard to read?)  looking severe". VG+.

£50.00

STRIP OF PHOTOBOOTH PHOTOGRAPHS OF COLLINS & A WOMAN. 1984.

Rome: s.p., 1984 20 x 4.2cm, commercially processed photobooth strip of images of Collins showing off his naked upper body along with a woman who we have not yet been able to identify (we suspect one of Collins' life partners) who eventually reacts to the artist's advances in the last frame. On the back of the strip in Collins' handwriting it reads "Roma Oct 25th 1984 "Le Madness"". VG+.

£50.00

UNTITLED (FLOOR) ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH. C. 1985.

N.P.: Ss.p. (Collins), n.d. (c. 1980) 30.5 x 38cm, silver gelatine b/w photograph of semi-naked woman standing in front of a wall with the word "FLOOR" painted on it. Sadly this sheet has been folded in half vertically by the artist for storage.

£65.00

SELF-PORTRAIT OF JAMES COLLINS. c 1985.

Firenze: Carlo Cantini, n.d. (c. 1977) 17.5 x 24cm, silver gelatine b/w photograph of James Collins taken as a self-portrait with his trousers down and showing his underwear. Given Collins' tendency to show the panties of his models in many images this is a self-aware parody of his fetish/artistic interests.

£50.00

JAMES COLLINS WITH UNIDENTIFIED MODEL. c 1985.

Firenze: Carlo Cantini, n.d. (c. 1977) 17.5 x 24cm, silver gelatine b/w photograph of James Collins with an unknown woman in his signature pose where the artist is at a distance from the woman. VG+. Possibly unique.

£50.00

JAMES COLLINS IN FRANKFURT. 1985.

Frankfurt: RW Interior Design, n.d. (1985) 21 x 15cm, 4pp plus 1pp transparent insert. Gallery announcement card for a solo show of paintings. The insert was the invitation to the opening. One work reproduced on the front cover. A horizontal crease from previous folding else VG.

£20.00

JAMES COLLINS. 1988.

Paris: Galerie Luc Queyrel, 1988 10.5 x 15cm, 2pp. Artist's postcard with on the front a b/w photographic portrait  "Nathalie Labourdette in a hotel room" study for a pastel portrait to be shown at "Art Junction" July 1988. Verso gallery details. VG+.

£40.00

A COLLECTION OF 35 COMMERCIALLY PRINTED COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF LATE WORKS BY COLLINS. c. 1988.

A collection of 35 different 15 x 10.5cm, colour photographs (commercially printed) in which Collins documented a series of late paintings (we estimate from 1988 onwards) - mostly pastels - in which he has changed his style and evolved a much more interesting series of works than the previous paintings. Taking his subject matter from glamour or porn magazines, saucy seaside postcards, still lives, and prostitute's advertising cards these works are in a less realistic style than the paintings of women Collins did in the 70s and early 80s. The loose, colourful style is much more like that of George Condo or John Currin and while much of the subject matter is still an interest in female sexuality, the works are more post-modern and ironic. It may be that Collins did not intend such a shift in his work but these are far more interesting paintings than the earlier rather sad and obsessed portraits of women that give off an aura of voyeurism. Collins has joined some of the photographs together using Scotch tape to create potential triptychs from the  works. It is not known where these paintings are. They were not found in Collin's archive after his death. We would be interested should anyone know of their location.

£145.00

FRAGMENTS FROM A NOTEBOOK. 1990.

Torino: Paolo Tonin, 1990 10.5 x 15cm, 2pp announcement card for a solo painting show with one painting "Girl in yellow pondering abstraction" from 1989 reproduced on the front. Verso gallery details. VG+.

£30.00

MOTHER AND CHILD. 1993.

Munchen: Michele & Langen, 1993 15 x 21cm, 2pp. Announcement card with on the front a colour reproduction of a painting "Mother and Child". Verso gallery details. The painting is poor and the subject matter sentimental - by this point Collins was struggling to get exhibitions and it is tempting to suggest such sugar sweet imagery was an attempt to get sales. VG+.

£20.00

SELF PORTRAIT HEALTH CLUB BLUES. 1997.

30 x 21cm, pastels on white cartridge paper. Unique drawing by the artist of himself wearing a white vest (colloquially known as a "wife beater" because of its use in the 1950s film A Streetcar Named Desire, where Stanley Kowalski pushes his wife to the ground wearing one). And drying his hair with a towel (although the towel resembles a skirt in the way it is pleated). The work is signed and dated December 1997 and titled "Self portrait Health Club" also in pencil. Collins was obsessed with his physique and attempted to go to health clubs right up to his death. He also regularly wore a white vest such as shown here.

£295.00

A TYPED LETTER SIGNED TO JAMES COLLINS FROM JOHN HILLIARD. 1972.

32 x 14.5cm, unfolded commercial airmail stationery with a typed letter from the conceptual artist John Hilliard to fellow artist James Collins in which he thanks Collins for the copies of "Semiotic Aspects" and "Revision and Prescription" that the latter had sent but Hilliard notes he had already read the works and "considered it worthwhile to have copies in my possession'. "Revision and Prescription seems like a fairly explicit run-down of a current situation". Hillaiard also notes he seems to have mutual friends in common who have mentioned Collins - namely Roger Cuitforth and Ken haw and John Marmaras. The letter is signed in full. Badly opened but complete.

£75.00

FOURTEEN ORIGINAL PROJECTOR TRANSPARENCIES OF WORKS BY GILBERT & GEORGE IN AN EXHIBITION C. 1986.

Fourteen separate original colour transparencies in cardboard frames each showing a different view of an exhibition in the mid 1980s. These images were all taken by the conceptual artist James Collins as a record of works he had seen. The photographs here are not great due to the problems of photographing such items - the actual transparencies are all clear and in focus. Price is for all 14 transparencies as a group.

£145.00

IMAGINING YVETTE. c. 1974. UNIQUE PHOTOGRAPH. SIGNED.

102 x 76cm backing panel with handwritten text by Collins and a 51 x 60cm, unique c-print showing the artist in the foreground and a semi-naked female (Yvette) reading in the background. The text in pencil reads "Imagining girls I don't know is as interesting as watching them. I also like second-hand information. That's why I'm not looking at, but just imagining Yvette in this still from a super-8 loop. "I was naughty" was all she'd say. Three things interest me: Yvette is a stranger; she's perhaps doing what she thinks I like; and most important I am getting my pleasure second hand. I don't know and never actually see what Yvette does. Only after the film is processed do I see her, and then only through photographs." A conceptual underpinning to Collin's photographic work that else at times seems voyeuristic. There is some grubbiness to the backing card (a footprint!) which could be removed with care and some wear at the corners but the c-print is in near fine condition. Signed and dated ('74) by Collins bottom right. A unique work.

£995.00

UNTITLED. c. 1982. UNIQUE PHOTOGRAPH.

102 x 76cm backing panel with hand drawn keyline by Collins and a 41.5 x 54cm, unique c-print showing a clothed woman in front of patterned wallpaper and various items mounted on the wall and a shadow (possibly of the artist's head). There is minor grubbiness to the backing card  which could be removed with care and some wear at the corners but the c-print is in near fine condition. A unique work but unsigned and priced thus.

£750.00

UNTITLED. 1977. SIX C-PRINTS MAKING UP A WHOLE.

102 x 76cm backing panel with hand drawn keylines by Collins upon which are mounted six 22 x 32cm, c-prints. The six panels make up a greater image of the artist's shadow looking at a shadow of a female below other items on a patterned wallpaper. There is very minor grubbiness to the backing card  which could be removed with care and some wear at the corners but the c-print is in near fine condition. A unique work but unsigned and priced thus.

£750.00

UNTITLED. 1982. THREE C-PRINTS MAKING UP A WHOLE. UNIQUE WORK.

102 x 76cm backing panel with hand drawn keylines by Collins upon which are mounted three 15 x 79cm, c-prints. The thre panels make up a greater image of the artist's shadow looking at a female face in front of a patterned tartan wallpaper. There is very minor grubbiness to the backing card  which could be removed with care and some wear at the corners but the c-print is in near fine condition. A unique work which has been signed in the centre of the image at one point and dated "'82" but Collins has inexplicably painted out the signature with tippex (white paint out). Priced thus.

£750.00