The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of the National Library of Iceland, and recently there has been increased emphasis on the unique status of artists‘ books in the National Library‘s holdings. The Library is in the process of developing a special artists‘ books collection within the library‘s special collections department. The exhibition is located on the 3rd floor of the Culture House from June 7, 2018–June 2, 2019.
The term “bókverk”(book art or artists´ books) has a multifaceted meaning in the Icelandic language. Books that fall into that category are diverse in the minds of those who are familiar with the term that was first used in Iceland at the end of the 19th century to describe large-scale publications published in many volumes, with particular emphasis on the printing process, appearance and layout of the book. Since then, the term has been used when describing numbered books, journals, posters and various kinds of ephemera, regardless of their content. The term ranges from handmade self-published prints to mass-produced publisher‘s editions, where costs are inevitably high. Nowadays the term “bókverk” signifies a book by an artist – where the book itself is the artwork, its medium chosen by the artist because of the characteristics that the book has above and beyond other media.
The exhibition focuses on displaying the early history of the artist‘s book in conjunction with artists’ experiments with the form of the book. The works come from the holdings of The National and University Library of Iceland and have all been created in Iceland between the late nineteenth century and the present day.
All the works on show are examples of prints by artists, printers and publishers, and experiments on creative approaches to printing, with a focus on collaboration between artists and writers. The older works on show are linked to book production in the present, where books and other artists‘ works can be seen in various forms.
Examples of creative frameworks for the printing process are on exhibit, both bookbinding done by hand and different versions of commercial bookbinding, as well as ephemera such as posters and book covers.
Here are examples of creative frameworks for the printing process are on exhibit, both bookbinding done by hand and different versions of commercial bookbinding, as well as ephemera such as posters and book covers. The term “bókverk” ranges from handmade self-published prints to mass-produced publisher‘s editions, where costs are inevitably high.
These works are milestones in creative approaches to printing and experiments between artists and publishers, with a focus on collaboration between artists and writers.
Today the publication of artists’ books is booming and a wide range of artists utilize many different methods to create their works – from the handmade to numerous digital printing possibilities – depending on what’s appropriate for each work. It may also be noted that during the last few years micropublishers, small bookstores and festivals have sprung up in Iceland where the emphasis has been on the dissemination and sale of books, drawings, zines and diverse alternative publications. All of this indicates that artists´ books and books by artists are a fast growing part of Icelandic libraries‘ acquisitions.