The British Museum Press today publishes Artists making books: poetry to politics, a striking new publication showcasing its little known yet extensive collection of artists’ books.
Studies of artists’ books often focus on those made in Europe and North America from the early 20th century onwards, but across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, artists have been creating books that tackle political and subversive themes and demonstrate their passion for literary traditions or modern poetry, while also telling personal stories.
"The subject of artists’ books is often considered a European art form," said the book's author Venetia Porter, former Curator of Islamic and Middle East Art, and currently Honorary Research Fellow at the British Museum and at the Courtauld Institute of Art. "In the hands of Middle Eastern artists books take on a different dimension in such imaginative ways. They open up worlds of poetry, while also evoking painful narratives of conflict and displacement."
The visually stunning publication features books by artists from Beirut to Tunis, Damascus to Lahore, exploring works from the British Museum’s collection, providing an exploratory essay and short commentaries throughout. The artists’ books appear in a variety of shapes and sizes, as one-offs or small print editions, and highlight the relationship between artists and writers and the many influences that inform their work.