The Banff Centre library’s Artists’ Book collection was started in the early 1980s when the then-Director of the Walter Phillips Gallery, Lorne Falk was planning the exhibition Berliner Aufzeichnungen (Berlin Notes). The exhibition featured 30 artist’s books that were later donated to the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives. Around the same time, former library director Bob Foley was making connections with a number of artists’ books distributors such as Art Metropole (Toronto) and later Printed Matter (New York).
That, along with donations and special acquisitions, has grown the collection to over 4,000 Canadian and international works and counting. It’s an exciting resource for all the artists that visit The Banff Centre and is one of the more impressive collections of artist published works in Canada.
When talking about the collection at the library I often get asked, “What exactly is an artist’s book?” A simple definition would be “an artwork in a book format.” But much of what we call artists’ books at The Banff Centre Library are not actually in book form, in fact the library’s collection has t-shirts, hand-made and mass-produced boxes, hand-made papers, postcards, CDs, we’ve even recently ordered a Cheetohs lapel pin.
In fact, no one in the artists’ book community can really agree on a succinct and accurate definition. The best response I can think of is “come to the library and see!”
Just a few of the books and objects in the collection (all photos by Kim Williams):