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.