Showcase – Artists' books from the collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Virtual review

Exhibition from 20 September 2017 – 7 January 2018

Exhibition poster | © BSB
Exhibition poster | © BSB

Titled SHOWCASE, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek presents selected exhibits from its collection of artists' books, which has been expanded systematically since 1915, encompasses a large variety of topics and has today reached a top rank on an international level. SHOWCASE indicates the presentation of the books in glass cases that is characteristic of an exhibition in this library. The title likewise implies that these contemporary works of art are collected for the purpose of showing and browsing them, hence the part "show", but also within the meaning of a "case", exemplarily, in line with the targeted expansion of a collection that is special for an academic universal library.


SHOWCASE pursues the goal to effectively bring to bear the dynamism and multi-faceted expressiveness of these books, which are consciously chosen by artists as their form of expression. It illustrates the differences between the artists' approaches to using the medium of the book and the differences between their appearance, design, material and value. Books produced at low cost and as a mass product can be artists' books just like pricey books of a bibliophile appearance. With their ideas and new solutions, the artists also pursue further goals in addition to aesthetic value. They address society in a new language and with new forms of presentation, also pursuing political goals. Their urge to change is also expressed in the subculture of comics and zines.


Over 70 exhibits were presented in three exhibition rooms.


The virtual review gives an impression of the exhibition and the exhibits presented in the showcases.

(Presentation of a large part of the following images with the kind permission of VG Bild-Kunst:

(For copyright reasons, not all works presented at the exhibition can be shown on this web page.)

Room 1 – William Blake | Kazimir Malevich | Marcel Broodthaers | Ed Ruscha | Max Ernst | Andy Warhol | Joan Miró | Joseph Beuys

Books should be slim. No lies. Nothing frivolous.

In the center of the first room, the only specimen of "Song of Los" by William Blake available in Germany is reminiscent of the text author, image creator and printer of his own books, the early "godfather" of the artist's book. The motto of the room is a quote by Kruchenykh: "Books should be slim. No lies. Nothing frivolous." It presents 36 works, frequently of small format. The exhibition starts with around 15 books by the European avant-garde, starting with the Italian Futurists. With their lithographic booklets, the Russian Futurists broke new ground as of 1912, shattering all aesthetic stereotypes. They turned the book into an autonomous work of art for the first time. Among other things, typographic experiments, photo compositions, dadaistic and surrealistic books are shown. Against this background, the novelty created by the artists' books of the 1960s and 1970s becomes all the more visible.

George Maciunas: Fluxus 1, 1964 | BSB/ L.sel.III 38 © George Maciunas Foundation/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
George Maciunas: Fluxus 1, 1964 | BSB/ L.sel.III 38 © George Maciunas Foundation/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Room 2 – Louise Bourgeois | Marina Abramović | Anselm Kiefer | Chuck Close | Katharina Gaenssler

Everything in the world exists to flow into a book.

The second room accommodates large-format, expensively produced works that were created predominantly in the course of the 1990s or 2000s. Its motto is a quote by Anselm Kiefer, inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé: "Everything in the world exists to flow into a book." The fundamental differences between the manifold types of artists' books become obvious here. Photographs, collages and the reuse of materials that the artist has come across frequently result in monumental, impressive works. The exhibition also features works by the Munich artist Katharina Gaenssler.

Katharina Gaenssler: Sixtina MMXII, 2012 | BSB/ L.sel.III 483 © Katharina Gaenssler
Katharina Gaenssler: Sixtina MMXII, 2012 | BSB/ L.sel.III 483 © Katharina Gaenssler

Room 3 – Pablo Picasso | Art Spiegelman | Keith Haring | Raymond Pettibon | Mike Kelley | Artist group Bazooka | Emil Siemeister

A new map of a new land.

Before I discovered the underground comics, I had never come across 'radical' or avant-garde art.

The third room is dominated by "flatware": Leporellos, portfolio works, posters, scrolls, record covers illustrate the diversity of media types. The first part is inspired by a quote by Stephen Dupont: "A new map of a new land." Here, works are gathered that have a socio-political objective, starting with the first work in which Picasso acts as author, illustrator, designer and editor in 1937, a political pamphlet against Franco and the war. Violations of human rights, slavery, racism, war and terror are addressed, expressed, protested against and branded in artists' books. A remark by Mike Kelley characterizes the second part: "Before I discovered the underground comics, I had never come across 'radical' or avant-garde art." "Ludo" by Keith Haring shows that street art had become respectable in 1985. The exhibition features comics, zines, an artist's booklet by Raymond Pettibon and "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Finally, in a showcase of its own, the view opens onto the work by Emil Siemeister created specially for this exhibition, with drawings on transparent plastic films executed in luminescent ink.

Pablo Picasso: Sueño y mentira de Franco, 1937 | BSB/ 2 L.sel.III 325-2 © Succession Picasso/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Pablo Picasso: Sueño y mentira de Franco, 1937 | BSB/ 2 L.sel.III 325-2 © Succession Picasso/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

All information about the exhibition at a glance

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

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.


Technical questions
Dr. Claudia Fabian
Phone:  +49 89 28638-2255

Curator of the exhibition
Dr. Béatrice Hernad
Phone:  +49 89 28638-2260

Press and Public Relations
Peter Schnitzlein
Phone:  +49 89 28638-2429