SHOWCASE – Artists' books from the collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

20 September 2017 – 7 January 2018
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Schatzkammern, 1st floor

Artist's book by Kottie Paloma, Mystery Spot, Cal., 2008 R3/ V7 (L.sel.I 3974) | © Kottie Paloma/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Artist's book by Kottie Paloma, Mystery Spot, Cal., 2008 R3/ V7 (L.sel.I 3974) | © Kottie Paloma/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Artist's book by Kottie Paloma, Mystery Spot, Cal., 2008 R3/ V7 (L.sel.I 3974) | © Kottie Paloma/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

The exhibition

Titled SHOWCASE, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek presents selected exhibits from its collection of artists' books, which was started in 1915 and has today reached a top rank on an international level. A quarter of a century has passed since the exhibition "Papiergesänge. Buchkunst im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert" ("Vocal papers. Book art in the twentieth century"). Today, the collection encompasses around 14,000 objects.

SHOWCASE makes reference to the glass cases in which the exhibits can be viewed by the visitors, but also indicates that these objects of contemporary art are collected exemplarily and individually in order to be "shown", to be exhibited, presented for browsing, but also within the meaning of a "case" for perception, for contemplation. SHOWCASE pursues the goal to effectively bring to bear the dynamism and multi-faceted expressiveness of these books, which are autonomous works of art.

From William Blake to Pablo Picasso, from Louise Bourgeois to Anselm Kiefer, artists have availed themselves of the book as a form of artistic expression. They have also contemplated the question what a book can be and can effect. They illustrated, wrote, coloured, created collages, photographed or took entirely experimental approaches. At times, their ideas and frequently completely novel solutions also pursued socio-political, even political objectives with an aesthetic claim. They addressed a new society in a new language and with new forms of representation. Some of them posit a new idea of man. The urge to change is directed not exclusively against terrorism and war or colonialism. It is also expressed in the "subculture" of comics, record covers and zines.

SHOWCASE illustrates impressively the enormous differences between the artists' approaches to using the book as a form of expression and the differences between the appearance of the artists' books, their design and price. Inexpensively produced, off-the-shelf books can be artists' books just like costly books of bibliophile appearance created by famous artists.

The exhibition rooms

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek shows around 70 exhibits in three exhibition rooms.

The first room offers the largest number of works, frequently in small formats, and is inspired by a quote by Kruchenykh: "Books should be slim. No lies. Nothing frivolous." The books run the gamut from the historical avant-garde movements of the 20th century up to "Fluxus" and the conceptual artists' books of the 1960s/ 70s, from Marinetti and Malevich up to Beuys, Broodthaers, Ruscha or Duchamp.

Large-format and more expensively produced works by Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramovic up to Anselm Kiefer or Chuck Close and not least the Munich artist Katharina Gaenssler can be seen in the second room.

The third room is dominated by "flatware": Leporellos, portfolio editions, a scroll, a record cover, a poster all serve as reminder of the multifariousness of media types, since the collection of artists' books offers much more than merely "books". Here, works with a socio-political objective can be found, such as Picasso's portfolio edition against Franco and the war, but also a portfolio edition by Keith Haring, comics such as "RAW" or zines by Pettibon, "Destroy all Monsters" by Mike Kelley and others, and the "Französische Bilder" by the artist group Bazooka. The bandwidth and topicality of the artist's book and of the collection become obvious, up to the unique work of art created specifically for this exhibition by Emil Siemeister in 2016, establishing a remarkable link back to the origins of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Virtual review

The supporting programme

At the same time, SHOWCASE is also an appeal to become newly or more strongly aware of this special form of expression of contemporary art, a broad variety of which is collected in Munich in particular, of the artists' book and its importance for our culture and its scholarly potential. The supporting programme is an extra encouragement to do so: an academic symposium in particular, titled SHOWTIME, which takes place from 23 to 24 October 2017 at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. At the event "We keep on fighting... – Two collectors, two concepts of the true artist's book", Hubert Kretschmer and Reinhard Grüner give an extensive insight into their work and activities.

Further information about the collection
Painters' books, fine press books and artists' publications

Further exhibitions of artists' books in 2017/ 2018

In 2017/ 2018, exhibitions of differently structured collections of artists' books will take place in libraries, museums and art archives in Munich and Germany-wide. The cooperation of these collections is supported by the working group "Arbeitskreis Künstlerbücher" initiated in 2012/ 2013 by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek together with the Klingspor Museum in Offenbach.


Phone:  +49 89 28638-2429

Dr. Béatrice Hernad

Information overview

VenueBayerische Staatsbibliothek
Ludwigstraße 16, 80539 Munich
Schatzkammern, 1st floor
Opening hours20 September 2017 – 7 January 2018
Mondays to Fridays   10:00 – 18:00
Sundays   13:00 – 17:00

Closed on Saturdays and bank holidays
Closure days in 2017:  3 October, 31 October – 1 November, 24 – 26 December, 31 December
Closure days in 2018:  1 January, 6 January
AdmissionAdmission is free.
Public transportUnderground lines U3/ U6, bus lines 150/ 153/ 154, station/ bus stop Universität
Bus lines 100/ 150/ 153, bus stop Von-der-Tann-Strasse
Guided toursFree-of-charge public guided tours for individuals:
on Thursdays at 16:30 and on Sundays at 14:00
Meeting point: Schatzkammern of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek  (1st floor)
No registration required.

For guided tours for groups please make an appointment in advance:
Phone +49 89 28638-2115 or e-mail to
Costs per guided tour: € 60.00
CatalogueOn the occasion of the exhibition a catalogue is published, which can be purchased for € 39.00.
We would like to thank the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation for their generous support in the realization of the catalogue.
Further information and online order