The Van Abbemuseum is given a large collection of 20th century book art and reference works on modern Russian art
The Nijmegen based collectors, Albert Lemmens and Serge Stommels have donated a collection of more than 13,500 titles to the library of the Van Abbemuseum. The collection of Lemmens and Stommels – the LS collection – covers the history of modern art in and outside Russia and the Soviet Union and consists, amongst other things, of artists’ books, children’s books, graphics and journals. Part of it consists of books and journals which were designed and / or illustrated by the artists El Lissitzky (1890-1941) and Ilya Kabakov (1933). The works of these artists can be seen in the Van Abbemuseum in the Lissitzky – Kabakov, Utopia and Reality exhibition from 1 December 2012 to 28 April 2013. The Lissitzky and Kabakov books and journals from the LS collection will also be exhibited here. “This donation is hugely valuable to us. The Van Abbemuseum has an extensive collection of literature on Russian art due to the works of El Lissitzky in the museum’s collection. With the acquisition of the LS collection with its artists’ books, primary source material, ephemera, prints and reference books, the Van Abbemuseum has now become the largest and publicly accessible knowledge centre in Western Europe in the field of twentieth-century Russian art. With this material we can also expand our experiences of the Living Archive project, in which we combine archive materials and the art collection to make the museological processes more transparent.”, says Diana Franssen, curator and head of research.
The LS collection contains a total of approximately 13,500 titles, ranging from original prints, posters and pamphlets to graphics, artists’ books, journals, illustrated children’s books and secondary literature such as reference books on the history of modern art inRussiaand theSoviet Union. Lemmens and Stommels have deliberately opted to donate their collection to a museum in order to secure the maintenance and management, research and accessibility of their collection for the future. The museum also considers that it is important for the LS collection to remain visible to the public, both in the museum and outside. The Van Abbemuseum regularly exhibits books, journals and reference works in special exhibitions in the library or includes them as part of exhibitions in the museum in order to provide a context for works of art . What makes the gift special is that it concerns a dynamic collection; since the collectors will continue to purchase even after the time of the donation, the collection will grow in the coming years.
The library collection
The library of the Van Abbemuseum actively acquires publications on modern and contemporary art which form the basis for its scientific character. The artist’s book plays an important role in the library collection, which aims to focus the public’s attention on the art of books as a professional art form. The library admittedly already has a large collection of books and reference works on the Russian avant-garde, an important period in the history of modern art, but with this donation it acquires a very broad historical basis for the collection which was for the most part not acquired until the 1960s. The archive and library collection of the Van Abbemuseum, which is predominantly based on the western canon, has now been supplemented with the LS collection focusing on Russian art. In future, detailed research can be carried out in the Van Abbemuseum into the origins and development of Russian modern art and the mechanisms which have historically determined the various positions in the art world. The museum will provide a platform for the results of this art historical as well as social dialogue.