Home » Art Books: A Collector’s Bookshelf Part One

Art Books: A Collector’s Bookshelf Part One

A few weeks ago, we recommended artist books as a more affordable (and under appreciated) alternative for art collectors. Imagine our surprise to discover that art collector and friend of VoCA Bill Clarke was also a collector of art books.

Here, he gives us a tour of his bookshelves:

Robert Indiana: Trilove (1969). All images: courtesy Bill Clarke

1. TRILOVE by Robert Indiana; 1969. Published by Edition Domberger, Stuttgart, in an edition of 210 signed and numbered copies.

American Pop artist Robert Indiana isn’t known as a book artist but, in the late ‘60s, he produced this small edition of two poems accompanied by a charming lithograph of his iconic LOVE image in a blue, green and white variation. The first poem, written in ‘55 , is fairly conventional, but the second, revisited by the artist for this publication, is a playful experiment in which he reconfigures the word ‘LOVE’ into different typographical arrangements. Indiana considered the print the third poem of the book, hence the title Trilove. Indiana’s limited edition prints, let alone his paintings, are beyond the reach of most of us, so this book was a relatively affordable way for me to obtain a piece of his work.

Dieter Roth: Bok 3b/Collected Work Vol. 7 (1974)

2. BOK 3b and BOK 3d by Dieter Roth; both 1961, reprinted 1974 (as Collected Works, Vol. 7). Published by Editions Hansjorg Mayer, Stuttgart, in an edition of 1,000 copies.

Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth (1930 – 1998) was a key figure in the development of the artist book in the latter half of the 20th Century. In the 1970s, Roth revisited all of his earlier book projects and republished them in a collected works series. Volume 7 consists of two books that were originally produced in the early ‘60s. In these two books, Roth randomly punched holes of varying sizes through the pages of comics and children’s colouring books . The result is partly Pop, but it is also an immersive visual experience for the reader. Roth urges readers to revel in the randomness of it all and question the importance of narrative in one’s experience of a book. Plus, Roth used original comics, not a single facsimile, for each of the 1,000 copies in this reprinting, so each book is unique.

Cover to Cover by Michael Snow; 1975

3. COVER TO COVER by Michael Snow; 1975. Published by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax.

This book is essential for any artist book collection and/or those who collect photography books. Cover to Cover is organized along a recto/verso principle with each spread/section of images representing the front and back of a series of gestures or objects. The book feels like its trying to replicate a sequence of film stills. Like the Roth book, the reader becomes very aware of the acts of looking at and reading images. (Towards the end of the book, the images gradually flip upside down, and the reader can turn the book upside down, as well, if they like.) Even though this book had a large print run, copies in decent shape seem to be running for $300 or more nowadays, so if you find a cheap copy, grab it!

13 Responses to “Art Books: A Collector’s Bookshelf Part One”

  1. Wil says:

    More , More, More.

  2. Zin says:

    why not do a feature on Art Metropole?

  3. Andrea says:

    Good idea, I will speak with Ann Dean. Or if someone wants to contribute that piece, email me and I’ll set it up. Stay tuned!

  4. Bill says:

    It is Art Met’s 35th Anniversary this year, so I think that is a great idea!

  5. A.K. says:

    Love artist books, too. A wonderful book about artist books:
    Splendid Pages: The Walter and Molly Bareiss Collection of Modern Illustrated Books (Toledo Museum of Art) 2003.
    Probably still available through David Mirvish Books, if you hurry and get there before Sad Sunday the 18th.

  6. A.K. says:

    Sad Saturday (not Sunday) is on Feb. 28th. So upset that I’ve lost my ability to read the calendar.

  7. Bill says:

    Thanks for the book tip, A.K.! I also recommend the catalogue that accompanied a Museum of Modern Art exhibition called A Century of Artist Books in the mid-90s (though its contents skew pre-1960 and there’s a lot of Picasso in it), and there’ s a nifty book called Books by Artists that accompanied an Art Metropole exhibit back in 1981 that I recommend snagging if you can find it.

    I, too, will really miss browsing at Mirvish!

  8. Mary says:

    Does anybody know anything about the early 20-century art books? Specifically anything about the Impressionist artists. For instance, when did the first books come out with color prints of artist’s paintings?

    Thank you!

  9. Bill says:

    Hi, Mary. According to Riva Castleman, the author of the book accompanying the Century of Artists Books MoMA exhibition that I mentioned previously, books with mechanical colour reproductions would have started to become more widely available in the 1890s. Toulouse-Lautrec was apparently a pioneer in this field and experimented with different printing techniques to mass-reproduce his original paintings as posters, plates for books, etc. so that the colours of the prints replicated the originals as closely as possible. Castleman also refers to something called a “spatter technique” for lithographs as often being used by Lautrec. I don’t know if that’s at all helpful…

  10. Mary says:

    Hi Bill,

    Yes, thank you. That’s good information. I will track down Rita’s MoMa catalog.

  11. Mary Farrell says:

    Hi Bill,

    It has taken me a long time to focus my attention on research of early color reproductions. Your suggestion has been a great help. Thank you. I have especially enjoyed reading about Toulouse-Lautrec.

    I have another question for you. Can you refer me to a someone in the art book collector realm who could tell me about specific art books published 1900-1910?

    Thank you so much.

  12. Bill says:

    Hi, Mary.
    I’m so glad that I was able to be of some assistance. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone personally who collects art books of that period. Perhaps a good place to start would be with upscale art book dealers, like Ursus (in New York) or Arcana (in Santa Monica, I think). Maybe they’d be able to connect you with some of their clients. Or, contact whoever might be in charge of the rare book collections at art museums.

  13. Mary Farrell says:

    Thanks Bill.
    I just happen to be going to Santa Monica in two weeks.

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