25 x 25: Artists’ Books from the NMWA Collection

A white book opens like a Swiss army knife; its pages cut to create a sculpture. Opened to the center, pull-out drawers open from the sides, filled with paper-made objects. On the right, a typewriter-like object. On the left, a box with smaller books, including one that is also open.
Mar 28 to Sep 16, 2012

The exhibition celebrates the generosity of donors who helped NMWA to build a foremost collection of artists’ books—among them many artists who have given their works.

The collection formally started in 1986 when NMWA founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay purchased Caroline, by Swiss surrealist Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985). This rare volume of poetry and etchings—one of 69 copies—was the first artist’s book acquired for the collection. The collection now comprises more than 1,000 unique books and limited editions in a variety of formats, from scrolls and accordions to codices and sculptures.

Over NMWA’s 25-year history, the museum has been unique in according artists’ books a prominent place in its collection and exhibitions. The museum often integrates thematically related artists’ books into presentations of works in other mediums, in addition to presenting exhibitions like 25 x 25, which highlight many of the best artists and works in the field.

Papier-mâché head covered in clippings of pages from James Joyce's novel "Ulysses." In varying shades of green, the head includes curly, lettered strips for hair and wide and classic-Greek-style eyes under arched eyebrows.

Friederun Friederichs, Ulysses, 2009; Paper, papier-mâché artist’s book, 14 x 10 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Paula Chattin; © Friederun Friederichs