Most art history students have had to tackle an assignment that requires researching a contemporary artist. Quickly, it becomes clear that the research of contemporary artists involves a different research process than more seasoned artists. The resources that students would normally access first, such as catalogue raisonnés or retrospective exhibition catalogues, most likely do not exist yet. So, what sources are available to researchers of contemporary art and how does a contemporary art museum library cater to those needs? These are questions we ask ourselves when building and managing our collection.
Author: Alexandra Reigle
It’s not unusual for art and fashion to exist symbiotically, each providing inspiration for one another. Some artists, such as Andy Warhol, have become fashion icons both in the incorporation of their artworks into fashion designs, as well as their own fashion sense.
This is a post written by Rita O’Hara who works at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library.
In February, Richard Koshalek, the Hirshhorn Museum director donated to the library a copy of The World Bank exhibition catalog entitled Imagining Our Future Together: South Asia Artists. The exhibit featured the winners of a regional art competition organized by the World Bank’s South Asia vice presidency and the World Bank Art Program. This gift of the catalog led to a reconnection with a former classmate and a field trip to The World Bank.
The Hirshhorn Library has had the benefit of receiving creative, non-traditional items from generous contributors that reflect a playfulness with format and materials found in contemporary art. One such unexpected gift was that of the art and fashion periodical Visionaire , which has been published three times a year in limited quantities since 1991. Each issue has a particular theme that is illustrated in some form or another through the collaboration of Visionaire with contemporary artists and fashion designers from around the world.
On Friday, September 28th, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Head Librarian Anna Brooke gave a presentation at the NY Art Book Fair’s Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference on how artists’ books can be used in conjunction with a museum’s collection to provide greater insight into an artist’s body of work. Work studies student Lauren Zook, currently enrolled in the George Mason – Smithsonian collaborative masters program for decorative arts, aided in developing the presentation and has written a summary of it for our blog.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library has acquired an unusual type of book—the artist’s book. Some of these books are mass publications and others are unique and vary in size and shape. A new initiative has been made by the Smithsonian Libraries to make these artists’ books more accessible to the public and protect them from damage. Most of the artists’ books at the Hirshhorn Library were produced by artists represented in the museum’s collection. These artists’ books can provide new insight to an artist’s work, show similar themes, and can even be shown in galleries as autonomous works of art.
Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads has been a popular attraction at the Hirshhorn since its arrival in April. Surrounding the fountain in the center of the Hirshhorn, the zodiac heads have an interactive appeal as viewers pose for pictures in front of their zodiac animal. Much like Western astrological signs, the Chinese zodiac signs also have specific characteristics and traits assigned to them – both good and bad. A person’s zodiac symbol was (and is) culturally significant in many parts of Asia, where a person’s zodiac sign is sometimes seriously considered when entering a relationship.
This cultural significance is something that Ai Weiwei likes to utilize in many of his works to communicate his messages, often indicated by referencing objects that are almost synonymous with Chinese traditions and values.