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Explore a Mind-Bending New Collection of Rare Art Books at Wits Art Museum

The new Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts offers a peek into the wonderful world of artist's books.

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Jack Ginsberg, Centre For Book Arts, Books, Museum, WITS

It was once only the lucky few who got to visit beloved South African art patron Jack Ginsberg’s personal library in Johannesburg – a mind-bending archive of more than 3 000 artist’s books from around the world. Those invited would be welcomed with tea and some biscuits, and then, once that was done, he would don his white gloves and guide you through shelf upon shelf of rare and otherwise unseen art books. 

This March, after decades of work and collaborations with institutions around the world, the new Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts at the Wits Art Museum has opened its doors, making the art book experience available to anyone interested in opening the pages of one of the world’s largest collections of these special objects. 

For the centre’s opening exhibition, one of two shows created to celebrate its launch, Jack Ginsberg has selected a few of his favourite items from the collection, which he started piecing together in the early 1970s ‘almost from the inception of this contemporary art form,’ Wits Art Museum says. ‘Artists’ books are artworks in the form of books, rather than books about art. The collection is unrivalled in Africa and in the southern hemisphere, and includes more than 3 000 artworks, plus a unique archive of an additional 3 000 items on the history and development of the art-book genre.’

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Jack Ginsberg, Centre For Book Arts, Books, Museum, WITS
'The Great Wall' by Shirley Sharoff, 1991.

 

Visitors will get to see books such as the Be Careful Pop-up Book by local artist Stephen Hobbs, exhibited alongside works like Leaving by international book artist Julie Chen, Mirror by Carolee Campbell, and The Great Wall by Shirley Sharoff. Other big names in the collection include Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Kruger, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ed Ruscha and Kara Walker – a mix of diverse talents that will make for fascinating future exhibitions. 

'Be Careful Pop-up Book' by Stephen Hobbs, 2013.

 

‘The collection will offer insight and inspiration to typographers and graphic and book designers, paper makers, bookbinders etc, but perhaps most breathtaking, the collection speaks to the human capacity for limitless creativity and innovation,’ the curators say. 

Head to the Wits Art Museum’s Facebook page for more information about the Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts opening exhibition. And if you can’t get there anytime soon, check out theartistsbook.org.za, where many of the books have been painstakingly scanned and catalogued. 

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