Artist's books

In the Museo Reina Sofía Library, artists’ books are regarded as special collections. These publications are originally conceived and designed by an artist as artworks in their own right, whereby the author, aware of the characteristics specific to the book as an object, seeks to move beyond its role as a vehicle of ideas or the simple representation of texts and images. Further, artists make use of other aspects such as their capacity for geographical circulation or their low cost, making these artistic creations more accessible.

There are some issues, however, with establishing criteria allowing all artists’ books to be identified as such owing to the occasional difficulty in establishing their limits. The Museo Reina Sofía Library thus takes into account a series of factors, most notably the artist’s consideration of the book, even though this information does not appear in the publication. Other aspects to bear in mind are: the author’s participation in the design, layout and editing, the date of publication, the publishing house and the artist’s previous work. The blurred line between what constitutes and an artist’s book or not also impacts the work of documentalists, who are tasked with deciding how to classify these pieces.

The importance the Museo Reina Sofía Library attaches to these books is reflected in the 2,800 or more documents that make up the artists’ book collection and its active acquisitions policy. The collection encompasses artists who contributed to creating and consolidating the artist’s book concept in the 1960s and 1970s, and artists who still use this medium today to develop their work.   
The collection contains key works from American and European avant-garde art, from Edward Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962), a work which pioneered the current concept of the artist’s book, to Sol LeWitt’s minimalist books, to conceptual works by artists like Marcel Broodthaers, James Lee Byars, Hanne Darboven, Ian Hamilton Finlay and On Kawara, and Fluxus publications by George Maciunas and Ben Vautier.

Explore this collection

Artists’ books can be searched for in the Library catalogue by introducing the term “artists’ books” in the simple or general search box, and via the “any field” option in the advanced search. In the general background, the 096 reference groups together monographic works, exhibition catalogues, etc. which focus on artists’ books and may be of interest when embarking on research or introducing themes.   
Artists’ books are part of the Museo Reina Sofía Library’s special collections, which is why they must be consulted at the table reserved for such purposes on Floor -1. Their use and reproduction is limited.

From the Museo’s networks, some of these materials can be consulted online via LaDigitaldelReina. Consultations from external networks may be restricted due to intellectual property rights.

If you require more information, please refer to the Library’s terms of access and use, Library Guide, and available services. Library staff in the Reading Room are also available to deal with any questions.

Edward Ruscha, Babycakes with weights, S.l., E. Ruscha, 1970.  Biblioteca y Centro de Documentación del Museo Reina Sofía
Edward Ruscha, Babycakes with weights, S.l., E. Ruscha, 1970. Museo Reina Sofía Library and Documentation Centre

Access artist's books