Artist Books


"... They cannot be reduced. They’re not representable. The claim of the complexity of their design is irreducible. They never give the impression of being able to be contained at a glance. They are utterly not done: they unfold only in experience, as becoming".

(Bart De Baere about 'artist publications' in 'Not done', M HKA, 2004)

Whatever was not done in the past, is quite acceptable today. Yet, the M HKA has been collecting not only works as art objects, it has also been investigating practices, bodies of work and scope since the 80s (note: started in the 70s with the ICC - the International Cultural Centre – of which the M HKA also manages its archives).

After all, a museum of contemporary art is always trying to make valuable, albeit daring proposals which have not been borne out by time, not like ancient and modern art have. The contemporary art museum is a future machine. The M HKA wishes to offer art as a source of insight and a gateway to the multipolar world of today. In doing so, the M HKA uses the post-war avant-garde in this region as a reference, with the concepts of image, action and society as constant guidelines. The museum ponders what art is today even more so than before, by reflecting, by organising exhibitions of lesser known, or even misunderstood, genres in contemporary art, and by collecting and investigating them.

Year after year, more and more attention has been paid to the more ephemeral and volatile materials that originated within the contemporary art field. Accordingly, former director Flor Bex pledged in the 1988 Annual Report: "All the invitations of exhibitions, documents and photos, files sent by artists or galleries and museums, will all be carefully archived under the names of the artists or other categories. In 1988, 6,000 cases were created that way which already take up 16 meters of hanging space in the filing cabinets."

The M HKA has developed this further, with particular attention to all that is going on around the standard image of the work and the works, and with a strong focus on 'artist books', 'artist catalogues', 'artist inserts' , ‘artist magazines’, ‘artist novels’; books as carriers of images, the book or magazine as an object - and with objects or art as novels but also ‘ephemera’ or ‘halfway works' as the M HKA like to refer to them.

Today, this collection includes 'artist publications', 2,500 catalogued items in a total library collection of 40,000 items (catalogues, magazines, monographs and theoretical works).

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