June 3, 2014

Pop-up art library rolls around the UK


The Art Lending Library ©Colin Gray / Via Art Lending Library

The Art Lending Library
©Colin Gray / Via Art Lending Library

Two British artists have launched a library have been taking a new kind of library around the UK, lending out not books, but works of fine art, Ian Chant writes this week for Library Journal, and are hopeful about bringing it to other countries as it gains popularity.

Artists Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich introduced the Art Lending Library at the Mitchell Library, as part of the Glasgow International Art Festival. Commissioned by the Market Gallery in Glasgow, it’s made from a series of crates that fit together, and which house various artworks donated by contemporary artists. Most of the contributors are based in the UK, but there are installments from Colombia, Thailand, and Australia.

The Art Lending Library works very simply: anybody who visits can choose a piece of art — ranging from drawings to sculptures to DVDs and more — and check it out for up to a week. It’s packed up and delivered to that person’s home, where they can display it and see how they enjoy the experience of having a unique work of art for a short while, without having to buy one.

While the project certainly has a lighthearted, fun approach, it’s not without its political motivations. Walker points out to Library Journal, “There have been a lot of cuts to the arts, and to libraries right now. So it’s actually kind of symbolic.” And Bromwich explains that “one of the things that’s really inspired the project is the original idea of libraries as this egalitarian place. In the past, only rich people had libraries with books in them. In a way contemporary art is like that now, it’s kind of an elitist thing.”

The Art Lending Library wrapped up a stint in Darlington, England, and Walker & Bromwich are eager for what possibilities the future holds. As Chant points out, there are already efforts similar to the library in Chicago and Minneapolis; and the pair have already received an offer to take the library (which does, in fact, have wheels) on the road to a gallery in Italy.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.