I call them simply books

May 18 - October 9, 2015 /
Nouvel Building, Library and Documentation Center. Space D, Floor 0

The artists' book is not an art book.

The artists' book is not a book about art.

The artists' book is a work of art.

The artists’ book is the book.

The exhibition I call them simply books, devoted to the «book as book», can be seen as part two of the previous one It is not new, it is a book, that it was a purely conceptual approach to the book. The title is a quotation by Peter Downsbrough, an American artist who has published numerous «books» since 1972.

Artists’ books are a new and revolutionary way of dealing with the space of the book, it is not considered any more as a mere container of information, but as a creative space. These books are generally of average format, of traditional appearance and the materials and printing techniques are unexceptional; but while the conventional books and their content can be diffused by other media, the artists' books of this exhibition can only exist as books. They are, even published in several hundreds of copies, original art works. The various drawings, photographs, etc., used to be reproduced in these works should not be considered as originals, but the books themselves, the book as a work of art. Thus we call them "books" in the same way we call a painting "painting".

The key work of this exhibition, curated by Guy Schraenen, is Stéphane Mallarmé's Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1897). Mallarmé liberated the text from the traditional page layout for the first time in history. Sixty years later, artists were taking over the space of the book in a wide variety of ways to avenge themselves from the dictate of the word and its power-system. Through the multiplicity of focuses, theses artists’ books oblige the reader-viewer to call into question his own approach to the book. The concept takes priority over the matter. As the content unfolds, the reader-viewer can follow the logic of the art work step by step.

Appearing in the ideological context of the 1960s, these artists' books were the democratic artistic product par excellence. Thanks to the simple form and modest price of these publications, artists aimed to give the widest audience possible the opportunity to encounter and become familiar with contemporary art.

The artists' books conquer their place in museums as «books», and in libraries as «works of art».

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Guy Schraenen
Christian Boltanski, Jean-François Bory, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, James Lee Byars, José Luis Castillejo, Mirtha Dermisache, Peter Downsbrough, Leo Erb, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Yves Klein, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Stéphane Mallarmé, François Morellet, Bruno Munari, Dieter Roth, Michael Snow, Klaus Staeck, Bernard Villers View more