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Book Arts

A guide to artists' books and the world of book arts

What is an artist's book?

What exactly is an artist’s book? You may not be able to tell just from looking at the object itself! The simple answer to someone not familiar with artists’ books might be: art in book form. But they are not quite so simple…

An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of “book” as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object. . . .What truly makes an artist’s book is the artist’s intent, and artists have used the book as inspiration in a myriad of ways and techniques, from traditional to the experimental. The book could be made through fine press printing or hand-crafted, the pages illustrated with computer-generated images or cheap photocopies; books became sculptures, tiny and gargantuan; books were sliced up and reconfigured, made from all kinds of materials with unconventional objects incorporated, in unique or limited editions, or produced in multiple copies. With all sorts of ideas behind them, artists continue to challenge the idea, content and structure of the traditional book.

                -Anne Evenhaugen, The Smithsonian Libraries Unbound blog 

When asked to define artists' books, ChatGPT generated this lovely response:

"Artist's books are works of art that take the form of a book. They are typically created by artists who use the book form as a medium for their creative expression. Artist's books can take many different forms, from traditional bound books to sculptural works, and they often incorporate a range of materials, such as paper, fabric, found objects, and even electronics.

Artist's books can be viewed as an extension of traditional book-making and publishing practices, but with an emphasis on experimentation, innovation, and artistic expression. They are often produced in small editions or as unique, one-of-a-kind objects, and are collected by museums, libraries, and individual art collectors.

Artist's books have a long and rich history, with roots in the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, including Dada, Surrealism, and Fluxus. They continue to be an important and influential form of contemporary art, and are celebrated for their ability to challenge traditional notions of what a book can be and how it can function."

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