While I usually have artist books on-the-brain to some degree, they’ve been on my mind more than usual lately, as I prepare a presentation to Brooklyn Museum interns and staff in early April highlighting recent acquisitions to Brooklyn’s artists' books collection. I’d like to take the opportunity to share a few of these with our readers here at the NYARC.org blog.
Over the past twenty years Arnold Smoller, and his wife Nancy, have been donors to the Brooklyn Museum presenting us with prints from their personal collection and helping us acquire artists’ books when we had the Artists' Book exhibition on view here back in 2000. We are now thrilled to announce that over 40 books from Arnold’s collection have been given to the Brooklyn Museum to enhance its collection of artists’ books and livres d’artiste!
The Brooklyn Museum Libraries held an event on a recent First Saturday featuring splendid 19th century books written at the dawn of the rediscovery of ancient Egypt, spread out on the tables in the reading room. Dr. John M. Lundquist, adjunct professor of Religious Studies at Pace University, presented a primer on ancient Egyptian gods and their influence on the burial rituals of mortals, giving voice to the exhibit downstairs, To Live Forever. Digital images of illustrations on pages from the very books before us were shown on the screen in Dr. Lundquist's presentation.
At the MoMA Library we recently unearthed an intriguing box of ephemera by artist Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967). The material was gifted to the Library by Walter and Nettie Wittman, who were friends of the artist. The letters, photographs, tear sheets, and some original commercial illustrations form a vignette of the artist’s professional and personal life, glimpsed from the perspective of Mr. Wittman, a lawyer residing in New Jersey.
Some say the future of art museum libraries will be the rare or unique research resources we collect. With that in mind at Brooklyn, we have been focusing our collection development policy on “rarer” items that are not readily available in other libraries. One recent acquisition falls into this category with the donation of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake (London: Camden Hotten, 1868).
While the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan wage on, NGOs, scholars, and governments from around the world have worked to raise awareness as well as to safeguard the wealth of cultural heritage currently at risk in the Greater Middle East, as evidenced in the recent exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met).
In 2009, The Museum of Modern Art’s Library Council published one of its most important efforts to date: a hand-printed scroll (the ancient "book form" of Asia) by the artist Yun-Fei Ji titled The Three Gorges Dam Migration. The eight-foot-long image, at first glance resembling a traditional Chinese landscape, depicts the flooded landscapes of the Three Gorges area in contemporary China; it reproduces, in the artist's calligraphy, historic and contemporary accounts of the Yangtze River and the upheaval caused by the construction of the world’s largest dam.
Somehow, advertising just seemed more charming a hundred years ago. Long before the days of pop-ups on websites and garish LCD billboards, businesses promoted themselves with delicate, artistic, finely printed cards, suitable for collecting, trading, and compiling in scrapbooks.