May 16, 2017

The Guggenheim Museum, joining others, expands its free digital art book libraries


“An artifical barrier of blue, red, and blue fluorescent light (to Flavin Starbuck Judd),” by Dan Flavin,  1968. Via the Guggenheim, from the book “Dan Flavin: the Architecture of Light”

Hey, art books are really great. But also: heavy, expensive, and then, a little bit later, rare (and more expensive). It’s nothing but good news, then, that the Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum, that multi-level vertical dream tube of human expression, has made two hundred and five of its art books (exhibition catalogs, critical works, and books of writings by artists), most of which are rare or out of print, available to view and read online for free.

The online collection, writes Beckett Mufson of Vice Creators, features books of and about the works of Gustav Klimt, Dan Flavin, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Egon Schiele, Robert Rauschenberg, and plenty of others:

There’s Wassily Kandinsky’s 1946 treatise, On the Spiritual in Art; books about movements from the Italian metamorphosis and Russian Constructivism; thousands of years of Aztec and Chinese art; and catalogs of work by the many greats to pass through the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed halls. Formerly locked in paper prisons (a.k.a., hard-copy books), analysis of work by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Dan Flavin, Robert Rauschenberg, Gustav Klimt, Mark Rothko, and more is now free to roam the web as PDFs and ePubs.

The Guggenheim’s project of expanding its digital archive began in 2012 with the digitization of sixty-five art books, and has been steadily continuing alongside the digitized collections of many other art institutions, libraries, and publishers. In addition to the more than 375,000 images of artworks that the Metropolitan Museum of Art made available online earlier this year, the Met has also made 1,611 art books in full through MetPublications. The British Library just digitized one of the rarest, largest books in existence, the Klencke Atlas. Getty Publications Virtual Library adds 281 books to the pile. And the Los Angeles County Museum of Art contributes forty-three additional titles with its Online Reading Room.

We’ve got some looking to do.



Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.