Titled SHOWCASE, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek presents selected exhibits from its collection of artists' books, which was started in 1915 and has today reached a top rank on an international level. A quarter of a century has passed since the exhibition "Papiergesänge. Buchkunst im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert" ("Vocal papers. Book art in the twentieth century"). Today, the collection encompasses around 13,000 objects.
SHOWCASE makes reference to the glass cases in which the exhibits can be viewed by the visitors, but also indicates that these objects of contemporary art are collected exemplarily and individually in order to be "shown", to be exhibited, presented for browsing, but also within the meaning of a "case" for perception, for contemplation. SHOWCASE pursues the goal to effectively bring to bear the dynamism and multi-faceted expressiveness of these books, which are autonomous works of art.
From William Blake to Pablo Picasso, from Andy Warhol to Anselm Kiefer, artists have availed themselves of the book as a form of artistic expression. They have also contemplated the question what a book can be and can effect. They illustrated, wrote, coloured, created collages, photographed or took entirely experimental approaches. At times, their ideas and frequently completely novel solutions also pursued socio-political, even political objectives with an aesthetic claim. They addressed a new society in a new language and with new forms of representation. Some of them posit a new idea of man. The urge to change is directed not exclusively against terrorism and war or colonialism. It is also expressed in the "subculture" of comics, record covers and zines.
SHOWCASE illustrates impressively the enormous differences between the artists' approaches to using the book as a form of expression and the differences between the appearance of the artists' books, their design and price. Inexpensively produced, off-the-shelf books can be artists' books just like costly books of bibliophile appearance created by famous artists.