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Künstlerbücher transatlantisch – zwischen Kunst und Medium // Colloquium, 4 and 5 December 2014 // German National Library in Leipzig

Press release:  December 3, 2014

The artist book as a genre is attracting increasing attention in Germany, especially with regard to the library and museum tasks it involves. As a culturally complex medium and as a work of art, the artist book spans different artistic genres, the most important of which include text, graphic art, graphic design, performance, music and sculpture. By using the book format, book artists question the very function of books as a repository of information. Artist books explore the limits of the book as a genre and refuse to adhere to its formal character. In recent decades this exploration has increasingly also included e-books - as an alternative which they must distance themselves to, or as a challenge for creating new forms of synthesis.

In their complexity as a medium, they pose special challenges for academic cataloguing, storage, publication and presentation. The German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library and the Initiative Fortbildung für wissenschaftliche Spezialbibliotheken und verwandte Einrichtungen e.V. (IF) are organising a transatlantic colloquium entitled "American and German Libraries and Archives & the Contemporary Artist’s Book" to be held at the German National Library in Leipzig on 4 and 5 December 2014. The conference, which will be conducted in English, has been made possible through financial support from BI-International, Initiative Fortbildung and Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Kunst- und Museumsbibliotheken (AKMB).

The speakers are from the USA, Austria, Switzerland and Germany and cover all the institutions which concern themselves with artist books: libraries, museums, colleges of art and non-university research institutions. The event will feature art theory statements on the artist book by e.g. Stephen J. Bury, Frick Library New York; Milan R. Hughston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Anne Thurmann-Jajes, Weserburg Museum, Bremen, and provide glimpses into various artist book collections by e.g. Doro Boehm, Art Institute of Chicago; Stefan Soltek, Klingspor-Museum Offenbach; Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel; Gabriele Netsch, German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library and also presentations on current artist book research projects by Susanne Bieri, Philippe Kaenel, Swiss National Library Bern; Universität Lausanne. The colloquium will be rounded off with reports on the practical experience of various institutions with cataloguing and presentation.

The German Museum of Books and Writing hopes that the German-American colloquium will provide the basis for an international platform for partnerships and networks, which are of great importance for an interdisciplinary genre such as the artist book. This is the first time that an international conference has been organised on the culturally highly complex phenomenon of the artist book.

With its long tradition of book art, Leipzig represents an excellent choice of location for a colloquium on artist books. The city is home to the Academy of Visual Arts, Stiftung Buchkunst, the Museum of the Printing Arts and the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, and as such is distinguished by hosting an unusually tightly-meshed network of institutions devoted to book art and the artist book.

The artist book collection of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library forms part of the extensive "Collection of Art Prints" covering some 50,000 media units. Since the founding of the Deutsche Bücherei in 1913 this has been the main repository for book art and fine editions collected under the deposit copy law by the German National Library. This collection has also been supplemented by entries for national and international competitions organised by Stiftung Buchkunst.

It consists mainly of artist books published in German and is regularly used especially by groups of students from universities and art colleges. The collection includes e.g. an extensive set of alternative original graphic art books and journals published in the 1980s in the GDR.


The Deutsche Bücherei was founded in Leipzig on 3 October 1912. Following the partition of Germany, the Deutsche Bibliothek was set up together with the German Exile Archive 1933 - 1945 in Frankfurt am Main. The Deutsche Bibliothek also housed the German Music Archive from 1970; this moved to Leipzig at the end of 2010. The German Museum of Books and Writing became part of the Deutsche Bücherei in 1950. The libraries were then amalgamated following the reunification of Germany.

Since 2006 the unified institution has been known as the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek). It collects, documents and archives Germany's published scientific and cultural and scientific heritage in text, image and music form for use in the present and the future. The items collected include media publications issued on paper, on microforms and on other data carriers. They also include sound recordings and online publications. Besides offering use of its collections at the Leipzig and Frankfurt sites, the German National Library also provides services for libraries, the book trade, scientific institutions and individual users.

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