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Artists' Books

A guide to accessing the artists' books collection at the ECU Library. Includes a blog about books in the collection and thematic reading lists

The Collection

A digital illustration reads "Artists Books Collection at ECUAD" with two books standing vertically one one leaning diagonally with the letters "abc" resting on the angled side
The Artists’ Books collection encompasses books conceived, crafted, published, produced or altered by an artist, designer or collective with the intention of creating an independent art work. The collection brings together a diversity of approaches in production ranging from self-published artists’ books, hand-printed limited editions to more formal, hardcover publications. While current collection development has focused on contemporary, limited edition print publications that exemplify the burgeoning collaboration occurring between designers, typographers, visual artists, poets, writers, curators and publishers, the collection maintains an emphasis on conceptual artists’ books from the 1960s to present.

The focus of the ECU Artists’ Book collection corresponds closely to the definition of artists’ books that was introduced with the formation of the New York based, non-profit organization, Printed Matter. Founded by Sol Lewitt and Lucy Lippard in 1976, Printed Matter developed a mandate to disseminate and produce artists’ books that observed three basic tenets: “mass produced, relatively cheap, and accessible to a broad public.” The artist’s and artistic methods that informed the first 20 years of Printed Matter are well represented in this unique West Coast artists’ books collection.

The collection includes an exceptionally strong representation of works originating from the post-war, avant-garde movements of Fluxus, Conceptual and Performance art. It is the early, conceptual works of Edward Ruscha, Sol Lewitt, Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Marcel Broodthaers, Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland, along with works by Fluxus artists, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Robert Filliou, Yoko Ono and Dieter Roth that provide a strong foundation to this unique collection.

Evident in the collection are both local and national artists’ publishing practices including artists’ books created in conjunction with exhibitions at artist-run centres and art galleries. Works include those published with the collaboration of Artspeak, Contemporary Art Gallery, Grunt, Richmond Art Gallery, Surrey Art Gallery, Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Kamloops Art Gallery. The local collection includes work by Canadian artists’ Iain Baxter, Ken Lum, Rodney Graham, Kathy Slade, Isabelle Pauwels, Lorna Brown, Baco Ohamo, Antonia Hirsch, Arni Haraldsson, Dan Starling and Sidney Hermant to name a few, many of whom are faculty, staff or alumni from Emily Carr University.

Also present in the collection are artists’ audio work by Jack Goldstein, Rodney Graham, Christian Marclay, Kathy Slade and Brady Cranfield.

The Artists’ Books collection is housed in the Emily Carr University Library. The collection forms a non-circulating, teaching collection classes and researchers can access by request. The entire collection is catalogued and searchable in the library’s online catalogue. The library actively encourages faculty to integrate the collection into their course curriculum. Throughout the year the library organizes and hosts orientation sessions, exhibitions, talks, and presentations around Artists’ Books.

Ways to access the artists’ books:

  1. In the search box in the library catalogue enter a search term then click search. From the results page, limit your list by genre on the left side of the screen. Select Artists' book. Your results will be limited to artists' books on your search theme. 
  2. Scroll through the thematic reading lists or course reading lists that have been compiled and posted on the tabs to the left. You can request books by their unique artists' book number at the Research or Circulation desk and we will retrieve the books for you.
  3. Contact a librarian to request an orientation session or schedule a meeting to browse the collection: Ana Diab, Collections, Reference + Instruction Librarian OR
  4. If you're a student, talk to your professor to organize a class visit to the library for an introduction to the collection and then spend the afternoon together looking at books!
  5. There are endless ways to use the collection and integrate it into your creative practice and research. Organize a series of Artists’ Books Readings or curate a display in the ECU Library. We are always open to hearing your ideas.

Donated by Ian Wallace, a Vancouver-based, internationally renowned painter, photographer and art historian, the gift builds upon the collections’ thematic strength in the postwar, avant-garde practices of Conceptual, Fluxus and Performance Art.

Wallace taught at Emily Carr for many years and during that time developed a personal collection of artists’ books, many dating from the 1960s to 1980s and often produced by prominent Canadian, American and international artists. Significant works include those by Lawrence Weiner, Chris Burden, Joseph Kosuth, Michael Snow, Laurie Anderson, Richard Prince, Iain Baxter, and Ken Lum. Of special interest are rare sound recordings by conceptual artist, Jack Goldstein, and also several artists’ books produced collaboratively with Art Metropole, Canada’s first artist-run-center dedicated to the production and distribution of artists’ books.

Works previously acquired by Ian Wallace in the 1980s set the original foundation for the Library’s artists’ book collection. The collection has continued to grow over the course of the following decade. Artists’ books are considered works of art in themselves. They are often unique, sometimes multiples or limited editions. The collection exemplifies a diversity of approaches to the conceptualization of the artists’ book and often challenges traditional notions of the book form.

The Library is committed to the preservation and growth of this collection while making it accessible. The artists’ books have been catalogued and are searchable by the series title “Ian Wallace Collection,” in the catalogue. Please ask for artists’ books at the Reference Desk. They can only be viewed in the library.       604-844-3840        520 East 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC