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Books of Art

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

13:33, October 08, 2012

Artist books featured at CAFA's "Diamond Leaves"(Global Times /Xu Ming)

A current exhibition at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Art Museum is wholly devoted to books, though most are not for reading. The featured works, known as artist books, are plainly works of art whose relation to traditional books is drawn only from form, not function.

Artist books, works of art that take the shape of books, first appeared in the West over a century ago. The genre was introduced into China around the 1980s, which saw several Chinese artists creating contemporary works of this type.

Marshall Weber, one of the exhibition's curators and directing curator of Booklyn Artists Alliance (BAA), told the Global Times that in a country with a long history of bookmaking and publishing, Chinese artist bookmakers have immense potential to become a creative global force in the future.

Unprecedented event

CAFA's "Diamond Leaves" is the first major exhibition of contemporary-style artist books to be held in an Asian museum, introducing the form to many students, art professors and influential artists. Co-sponsored by CAFA, the BAA and Artron Enterprises, Ltd, the show spans a century of artist books, ranging from 1912 to the present day, with a focus on works by emerging, young contemporary artists. The international exhibition, which will run through October 28, boasts over 100 works from China and the West, including countries like the US, the UK, Australia and Germany.

The show displays works by Franz Kafka, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Kiki Smith and Chuck Close to provide a background to the current state of the genre. Contemporary Chinese works, such as Xu Bing's Book from the Sky and Chen Qi's The Trace of Time, are heavy with Chinese characteristics while embracing an experimental spirit through a variety of shapes and materials such as wood, cloth and tree bark.

Xu Bing, the other curator of the exhibition and deputy director of CAFA, said that in addition to providing an extraordinary visual tour, the show aims to demonstrate the global development of artist books over the past 30 years, with an emphasis on the huge expressive force of this genre in the art world.

At the exhibition's opening ceremony on September 18, Xu told the audience that these books are evolving from representing art to artistic representation. This new role of books within art is the result of artists participating in the creation of books, instead of simply providing the content, he said.

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