A Novel Twist: Art Installation as Lending Library

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Jewish Contemporary Museum

April 2, 2015; j. Weekly

NPQ has covered many variations on the theme of twenty-first century libraries—here, here, here, and here, for example. Now, we bring you a new twist: a museum with an exhibition that is both art installation and lending library.

San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) recently unveiled “Bound to Be Held: A Book Show,” an interactive exhibition from conceptual artist Josh Greene that includes about 1,000 volumes donated by members of the public. When the exhibition closes in June, the books will be donated to the San Francisco Public Library. In the meantime, visitors are welcome to browse the collection, settle into one of the cushy pillows on the gallery floor, or sign a book out and take it home to read.

Greene calls the collection of books “The Library of Particular Significance,” because each book is “whimsically annotated” with information about the donors, including year of birth, religion, and Zodiac sign. A card catalog includes additional information, like eye color and height. And each book is inscribed with a note about the book’s significance to its donor. For the show’s opening in late March, the books were arranged according to the Zodiac signs of their donors, but they’ll be reshelved a few times between now and June using some of the other available data, like religion and height, allowing browsers to find their own patterns or consider their own book choices.

According to chief curator Renny Pritikin, “The hope is people will read and share books, and the gallery will be transformed from a place to merely look at things to a place to talk, [where] community is built and progress is made in understanding the world.” The exhibition is also meant to underscore the importance of books in Jewish culture.

We’d love to hear from you about a book of “particular significance” that relates to your work in the nonprofit sector. Tell us the title and what you would inscribe inside the cover to sum up what the book means to you. –Eileen Cunniffe

Correction: This article has been changed from its initial form. The artist behind “Bound to be Held” is Josh Greene. Renny Pritikin is the CJM’s chief curator. NPQ apologizes for any confusion.