What is a Livre d’Artiste?

The French term Livre d’Artiste can be translated as artist’s book.

A Livre d’Artiste or artist’s book is a work of art that makes the book the subject of the artistic concept. In contemporary art, these concepts also transcend the boundaries of the book as an object. Artists’ books are created as original works by artists and are also published in authorized, limited editions according to the idea of multiples.

A Livre d’Artiste can be a series of images that are combined between two book covers, or texts that have been provided with illustrations by the artist. In this case a new work of art is created from this combination of text and image.

Artist books are an independent genre of the visual arts. They can be valuable luxury editions with original graphics, multiples or unlimited editions on photocopied paper. France’s great masters of painting created the first iconic artist’s books using their own artistic language. These included Jazz by Matisse which was printed, and the corresponding unique painted book, both of which were based on the tradition of illustrated books. These books would have been unthinkable at the time in England or Italy, hence why the French term, Livre d’Artiste, became established in the art world. In the last three decades, the Pop, Fluxus, Action Art, Arte povera and above all Conceptual Art movements have given the notion of artist’s books are strong resurgence and secured the medium a place in art history.

Examples of Livres d’Artistes include Carl Andre’s America Drill, 2003, Ken Lum & Hubert Damisch’s Ultimo Bagaglio, 2008, and Maurizio Cattelan’s Special Set: Die/Die More/Die Better/Die Again, The Three Qattelan, The Tatse of Others, 2008.

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