In the nineteen sixties artists turned their backs on both traditional media as well as the traditional institutes that exhibited this type of art.
A need was felt for a different podium, since a museum was seen as authoritarian in its choices and confirmed the established order. Artists set up alternative exhibition spaces and sought other art forms with which to achieve their ideas. While artists books already existed, this art form was given new meaning in the nineteen sixties. A book was seen as a democratic podium. It was under the control of the artists themselves, cheap to produce and, when sufficient numbers were printed, available – theoretically – for everyone to buy for a relatively low price.
The Van Abbemuseum has a large collection of conceptual artists books. In this genre, the concern is more with the idea – the concept – than with the form itself. Often this relates to descriptions intended to evoke in the mind a work, event or situation by way of instructions, notes, sketches, cards and graphics. Central to this is the production or response of art, whereby the experience of reality is redefined and also the non-visible reality within the experience of art is presented.
‘In the vitrines’ shows various forms of conceptual artists books which are now considered fully-fledged artistic expressions within the work of such artists as Seth Siegelaub, Sol LeWitt, Hanne Darboven, Douglas Huebler and John Baldessari. Special attention has been devoted to the books by Stanley Brouwn. All his books are on display and - as is usually not the case - can also be examined.