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The Museum of Modern Art



I'm trying to think twice before posting, so I've waited a week to respond to
Janice Ekdahl's posting about the artist book collection at the Museum of
Modern Art.  She reports that their collection is about 12,000 titles.
 That's an impressive amount, but quantity does not always equal quality.

Several years ago I met Clive Philpot, who used to be responsible for the
collection.  He told me that he was only collecting books under $20 and that
if I were to send him anything I'd done under that amount, he would probably
buy something.  Over the past several years MOMA has purchased five books for
a total of $68.

I am glad to be represented in their collection, but while these books are
fun pieces, they are in no way representative of my talent, style or
creativity.   They are merely a slice off the low end of what I'm capable of
doing.

It's ironic that other departments at MOMA are known for collecting the best
work available in their fields, while the book arts collection is content to
collect just the cheapest.  There appears to be little understanding or
appreciation for fine letterpress printing, papermaking, craft binding,
innovative structures, or inspired artisanship.  It is like they are locked
in time, perpetually trying to re-live the Fluxus movement, when the rest of
the book arts community has moved on.

In a small local arts institution this collecting philosophy would be
considered an inspired use of limited funds.  But for a world-class
institution, like MOMA it is nothing less than a disgrace.

Of course it is possible to do wonderful books cheaply and I know that there
are many gems in the MOMA artist book collection.  My point is that their
collection is too narrowly focused on a fringe segment of the book arts
community and that it fails to recognize the wealth of expertise and
creativity that characterizes our field.

I hope the time comes when MOMA develops an understanding and an appreciation
for the wide variety of talent and techniques thriving in the book arts
community and that they find the funds and the expertise to add these books
to their collection as well.  They should collect the best, not the cheapest
books.

When that time comes, I (and many other book artists) will have lots to show
them!

Ed (Hutchins)


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