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[BKARTS] Libraries: the Museums of the Future

Thanks, Paul, for pointing the way to the excellent Boston Globe article, "The art of the new" by Dushko Petrovich.:

I am in agreement with it and you about the "Art World," and would also recommend Harold Rosenberg's collection of essays from the 40's and 50's, _The Tradition of the New_, as background reading. His subsequent essays also give valuable insights, collected in _Art on the Edge: Creators and Situations_. In particular, he ends with an essay on folk art that places it outside the usual realm of criticism. We might look at the parallels between Rosenberg's views on folk art and the Book Art Movement. Why do the exhibition attendees abandon their usual demeanor and become happy when viewing the works?

This may have to do with different motivations and methodologies that the creation of folk art and book art have, compared with painting and sculpture.

One sentence about the museums in Petrovich's article that struck me was: "This role also allows them to be a special space for discourse about contemporary life, less intimidating perhaps than commercial galleries, and more intellectually ambitious than libraries."

A peculiar notion. I never found commercial galleries intimidating, and libraries are by their nature in the forefront of intellectual challenge. In recent years, librarians have been enthusiastic about exhibiting and collecting works by contemporary book artists, and presenting them in the context of the history of the book. They have exhibited a lot of controversial work that includes gender challenging and politically volatile pieces that have little to no commercial interest, but are filled with "discourse about contemporary life."

In a McDonald's/Starbucks-like franchise museum system dominated by "fast art," the "intellectually ambitious" concept of a book--an object that requires time to read--does not fit into the product mix. In the library, works of book art may take less time to "read" than most of the items in the catalog. They simultaneously present a simplified metaphor through their visual impact and give breadth and depth through the use of literary or sequential art. Library administrators, challenged with development plans that require programs to draw more of the constituency into the facility, see value in scheduling book art shows.

In the last decade or so we have seen more museums mounting book art exhibitions, which puts the work in the context of the history of art. Unfortunately Paul is too often correct about the results, even when artists' books are the subject. At NYC's MoMA the wonderful collection of artists' books is looked at as reference material and relegated to the library. A "curatorial" exhibition some years ago featured books by artists in the stable, quite a few of which were based on precursors by book artists whose names were relegated to oblivion.


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