Many of the world’s foremost universities around the world pride themselves on their library special collections. Of these, collections of some of the most important artists’ books outside of museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) and the V&A in London, are often to be found in university libraries. Unfortunately South African universities are not known for any special collections of international artists’ books and, furthermore, there is a corresponding dearth of books made by South African artists collected by our university libraries.
This collaboration between the University of Johannesburg’s Archives and Special Collections and the Jack Ginsberg Collections of Artists’ Books builds upon the existing relationship between these two partners reflected in the research website www.theartistsbook.org.za. In addition this exhibition provides a timeous opportunity for a small yet focused selection of artists’ books to be seen in a South African university and will, we hope, generate intellectual and artistic debate on the genre, not least of which being the artist’s book’s complex relationship with both the library and the gallery space. This exhibition should appeal to a wide diversity within the university community.
Perhaps one of the outcomes of this exhibition exploring texts, textures and structure in artists’ books will be a renewed motivation for university libraries to consider adding this fascinating form to their special collections.
Jack Ginsberg is Director of the Ampersand Foundation and winner of the 2013 BASA Art Champion Award whose private library of local and international artists’ books is unique on the African continent.