Book and Media Art Collection

The Collection of Book Art and Media Art spans over 20,000 illustrated books and artist’s books from the dawn of the printing press to the present day. The 1906 acquisition of the private collection belonging to the Berlin architect Hans Grisebach of works on typography and the art of book illustration from the 15th to late 18th century forms the backbone of our exemplary collection that has significantly grown over time. German and Italian prints of the Renaissance were of huge importance to Grisebach, as for him they served as a prototype for the Renaissance Revival across the German-speaking world. Beyond this, Grisebach’s collection of some 2000 books remains an outstanding example of a decidedly modern interest in printmaking as the 'art of surface' (Peter Jessen), an interest that clearly reveals the innovations in printmaking that occurred over time, as observed in numerous different editions of a single text.

The collection of new book art was decisively shaped by the German book art movement, a reform movement of the period between ca. 1890 and 1940, which aimed to improve the formal, technical, and artistic quality of book printing. English publications by the Kelmscott Press and Doves Press, as well as by the German Janus Presse, Ernst-Ludwig-Presse, Bremer Presse, and Cranach Presse bring the collection of bibliophile editions and illustrated books into the 19th century and include several editions illustrated by Gustave Doré. This body of 19th-century book art is enriched by trial proofs from the Kunstbibliothek’s Collection of Graphic Design. This collection area stands in stark contrast to the later-acquired books by avant-garde artists such as Hans Arp, Max Ernst, El Lissitzky, and Kurt Schwitters, who used the medium of book art to try out ground-breaking new forms of typography and experiments in the materiality of the book.

As with so many other collections at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the losses to the collection suffered during and immediately after the Second World War were substantial and, despite all our efforts, have not been fully redressed by our systematic acquisitions policy adopted since 1945. Starting in the 1980s, there was a concerted effort to build up a collection of artist’s books, conceived and designed by contemporary artists as works of art. The collection expanded with accessions of concrete poetry by Jasia Reichardt and Guillermo Deisler, the Fluxus collection of Hanns Sohm, book objects from the collection of Rolf Dittmar, as well as the artist’s books of the Franklin Furnace Institute in New York. As a result of the acquisition of the Marzona Collection of conceptual art by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the archive of the Marzona Collection came into the Kunstbibliothek’s possession in 2002. The Marzona archive contains approximately 20,000 books, editions and catalogues, magazines, invitation cards and posters, vinyl records, films, letters, and exhibition photographs, the bulk of which date from the 1960s. The exemplary and systematic approach adopted and propagated by book art in the early 20th century was usurped by the power of the media of the 1960s. This trend is partly reflected in the acquisition of the KIOSK Collection of the publisher Christoph Keller, which is in effect an archive of independent publishing in contemporary art. It features over 6,000 publications by numerous project partners, artists, galleries, museums, and publishers: a broad spectrum of publications, whose diverse formats and themes could not be more different from one another.

All collection objects are stored at the Kulturforum and are available to view in the Kunstbibliothek’s study room. For some objects prior registration is required.