John Waters’ personal art collection on show at BMA this fall

Catherine Opie, ‘John,’ 2013, printed 2022. Collection of John Waters © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Catherine Opie, ‘John,’ 2013, printed 2022. Collection of John Waters © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) is showcasing approximately 90 works from the collection of John Waters that provide an insider’s look at the Baltimore icon’s tastes in fine art. The artworks are drawn from the 372 objects that Waters is giving to the museum as part of his bequest, marking the first presentation of works from the gift since its announcement in fall 2020. The exhibition, titled Coming Attractions: The John Waters Collection, is guest-curated by photographer Catherine Opie and artist Jack Pierson, both of whom have been friends with Waters for many years and are represented in his collection. Through their collaboration, Waters’ collected works are examined through a particularly intimate lens, offering audiences a distinct sense of his singular sensibilities. On view from November 20 through April 16, 2023, Coming Attractions will be presented in the BMA’s Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

Among the featured works in the exhibition are paintings, sculptures, photographs and prints by Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Gary Simmons, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool. The selected works capture elements of key importance to Waters’ collecting vision, including a commitment to daring artists and artworks that exude confidence, wit and humor.

The exhibition also highlights the deep and longstanding relationships that Waters has established with artists and the ways in which those personal engagements and connections have further defined his collecting. A publication featuring images of the artworks installed in Waters’ Baltimore, New York City and San Francisco homes will accompany the exhibition, giving audiences the opportunity to see the way that Waters lives with the works on view.

Richard Tuttle, ‘Peace and Time (I),’ 1993. Collection of John Waters © Richard Tuttle

Richard Tuttle, ‘Peace and Time (I),’ 1993. Collection of John Waters © Richard Tuttle

“We have both known John Waters for years as an auteur filmmaker, a writer, an artist, an art collector and a friend. We are honored to have the opportunity to curate a presentation of his collection, which so richly reflects his personality and imagination,” said co-curators Opie and Pierson. “Our hope is to share with audiences another aspect of John’s creative vision by offering a glimpse into what he values: artists who are unafraid to take risks, who do not compromise, and who create their art on the margins.”

Waters’ bequest to the BMA of 372 works by 125 artists brings a cutting-edge articulation of American individualism to the BMA’s collection, particularly as it relates to queer identity and freedom of expression. The exhibition begins with a grouping of touchstone works that represent Waters’ relationships with people in the art and film world such as Brigid Berlin, Colin de Land, Cookie Mueller and Andy Warhol.

Doug Padgett, ‘Untitled,’ 2010. Collection of John Waters © Douglas Padgett

Doug Padgett, ‘Untitled,’ 2010. Collection of John Waters © Douglas Padgett

Works by Vincent Fecteau, Fischli and Weiss, Paul Lee, Doug Padgett, George Stoll and others lean heavily on craft to emulate everyday or eerily familiar objects — a theme well-defined within the collection. The definition of painting extends beyond oil and canvas with works by Richard Artschwager, Tadashi Kawamata, Tom Sachs and Richard Tuttle, embracing a variety of materials.

Photography also plays a key role in Waters’ collection, and among the photographers he admires are Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Catherine Opie, Jack Pierson, Richard Prince and Karlheinz Weinberger. Baltimore-area visitors will appreciate a rare painting by Betsy the Chimpanzee, who lived at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and became a local art sensation in the 1950s. Though Waters’ bequest includes many artworks he created, Coming Attractions will focus on those he has collected.

The exhibition is organized by BMA Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Leila Grothe.

Visit the website of the Baltimore Museum of Art.