All posts in “Dayanita Singh”

Artists’ Books and Archives at SAM Library

Currently, the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library is featuring a display of three new acquisitions from its Book Arts Collection. These artists’ books share a common interest in documents and other historical records—each, in its own way, addresses the notion of archives.

The book by Tammy Nguyen (American, born 1984)—A Surreal Archive: The Young-Mallin Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2018)—announces its connection to an archive in its title. This work was commissioned in an edition of 250 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library to commemorate the collector Judith Young-Mallin (American, born 1937) and her gift of the Young-Mallin Surrealist Archive to the museum. The archive contains a wealth of materials and books related to the original surrealist artists and those influenced by their work, including Young-Mallin’s personal library, research files, interviews, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera. Nguyen has constructed a book that includes pop-up elements, along with hidden panels and envelopes. As Timothy Rub says in the accompanying book’s foreword, Nguyen’s work “playfully mirrors Young-Mallin’s spirit as a collector.”

Multiple items from the archive are incorporated into the book:

Dorothea Tanning’s Lanova: Design for Ballachine Ballet “The Night Shadow” (1945); Paul Éluard and Max Ernst’s book Misfortunes of the Immortals (1943); Young-Mallin’s book The Night the Lobster Telephone Rang (2011); Richard Avedon’s photograph Carol Janeway with Bronze Sculpture by Ossip Zadkine (no date); Carol Janeway’s pen and ink drawing For My Valentine (ca. 1940s); a matchbook advertisement for the exhibition Marcel Duchamp—Addenda (1974); a photograph by an unknown photographer titled William Copley and Noma Copley on Honeymoon in Egypt (ca. 1954); and images of The Stein-Toklas Doll House of Judith Young-Mallin (ca. 1970s), a work that was created in Young-Mallin’s home by various artists, including Leonora Carrington, Man Ray, Elsa Schiaparelli, and others.

This Is the End (Peter Norton Family Projects, 2017) is an archive of an unusual project undertaken in the name of art. For many in the art world, the most important gift at the holidays was the “Peter Norton Christmas Project.” Each year between 1988 and 2017, software entrepreneur, art collector, and MoMA trustee Peter Norton (American, born 1943) commissioned an art edition to celebrate the holidays. Created by artists in Norton’s collection and sent as gifts to a few thousand personal friends and members of the art community, these art objects were intended to foster engagement with the world of contemporary art. When the project concluded in 2017, Norton created an archive of the series in another edition: This Is the End (with the subtitle Our Closing Project in Three Parts). It includes a 72-page book titled The End, which details each of the thirty releases. The edition also includes a scorpion sculpture excised from the book, a postcard, an electronic video book, and earbuds. The format of this project and its scorpion theme were inspired by the art of Robert The (American, born 1961). The edition is enclosed in a book box that states “The End” on its cover.

Photographer Dayanita Singh (Indian, born 1961) continues her series of “book-objects” with Pothi Box (Spontaneous Books, 2018). Using images from various Indian archives, this artist’s book holds thirty black-and-white images of paper archives, a film archive, and a printing press, held together in a wooden structure. This “unbound book” is meant to be hung on a wall or placed on a table. Similar to that in other Singh projects, the structure allows for the collector to play a curatorial role by changing the cover image as they please. Unlike other projects that have been contained in constructed boxes, this work is nestled in a woven textile with needlepoint letters “Pothi Box,” recalling the archival sacks featured in her photographs. Pothi Box is a smaller version of a larger structure called Pothi Khana (2018), which was recently displayed at the 57th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

These works will be on view outside of the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on SAM’s fifth floor until June 12, 2019. Any questions about our Book Arts Collection can be directed to libraries@seattleartmuseum.org.

– Traci Timmons, Senior Librarian

Images: This Is the End, 2017, Santa Monica: Peter Norton,Peter Norton, compiler, American, born 1943, BKARTS N 7433.4 N785 T54 2017.A Surreal Archive: The Young-Mallin Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2018, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tammy Nguyen, American, born 1984, BKARTS N 7433.4 N58 S87 2018. Pothi Box, 2018, New Delhi, India: Spontaneous Books, Dayanita Singh ,Indian, born 1961, BKARTS N 7433.4 S557 P78 2018. Photos: Natali Wiseman.


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Museum Bhavan

Museum Bhavan: A Book-Object by Dayanita Singh

During SAM’s current exhibition, Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India featuring the rich artistic traditions of India, SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library is showcasing one its own treasures of Indian artistic practice: Dayanita Singh’s artist’s book, Museum Bhavan (2017).

Museum Bhavan

This limited edition artist’s book is an extension of another compelling work created by the artist. Singh initially created a large, structural, non-book version of Museum Bhavan in 2015 as a series of large, wooden portable “museums” that incorporates hundreds of photographs from her many decades of work in an easily alterable display. It is from this original Museum Bhavan that the artist’s book, Museum Bhavan, originated.

Museum Bhavan

Here is the original Museum Bhavan on display at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi in 2013. See a walkthrough of the installation here. (Source: Google Arts & Culture.)

Museum Bhavan

In 2017, Singh published the “book-object,” Museum Bhavan, as an easily transportable “pocket museum,” working with long-time collaborator and publisher Gerhard Stiedl. This Museum Bhavan includes a series of nine accordion-fold books—which she refers to as “museums”—that contain Singh’s black-and-white photography and fold out into long strips. This aspect mimics the series of wooden accordion panels used in the original Museum Bhavan. Additionally, the 2017 version includes a booklet of conversations entitled Conversation Chambers that also reflects an aspect of the original: the structures of the original Museum Bhavan can be opened to act as a wall or they can be pulled inward to form intimate spaces. Accompanying wooden benches and tables help create “chambers” that encourage reflection or conversation. The conversations documented in the artist’s book include one with her publisher, Gerhard Steidl, and another with curator and writer, Aveek Sen. Unlike the original Museum Bhavan, the “book-object” version is enclosed in a handmade clamshell box created in India, covered by fabric designed by the artist.

Museum Bhavan

Through this book form, Singh has pushed the original Museum Bhavan’s concept of the evolving presentation further. This Museum Bhavan is an artist’s book, a photo book, and something that can be displayed as a tabletop exhibition while simultaneously being the catalog of that exhibition. By offering an exhibition in a box, Singh encourages viewers to install and curate the work as they like and where they like. Singh desires “the mass-produced quality of publishing and the uniqueness of the art gallery…,” but she wants to make it accessible. She believes that this kind of work is the museum of the future.

Similar to the original version, the title of each “museum” or book is ambiguous and interchangeable: Museum of Men, Godrej Museum, Little Ladies Museum, Museum of Furniture, Museum of Vitrines, etc. Her photos appear without titles or captions. The ambiguity, she says, is intentional.

Museum Bhavan

“I don’t want to spoon-feed you with photographs, and I don’t need to because photography is such a magical medium…. If you allow it, it will present all sorts of meanings.”

—Dayanita Singh

To get a closer look at these works, another artist’s book by Singh (Sent a Letter, 2008), or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

In consideration of Singh’s intent, the display of Museum Bhavan will change in the case throughout the run of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Photos: Natali Wiseman
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