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Tuesday, August 9 • 3:15pm - 4:15pm
Art Libraries and the Aesthetic Response

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Building Art into Architecture: An Exploration of Ann Hamilton's Library Installations
Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, Princeton University Libraries

Light and Wood: An Intimate and Human Space within the Art Libraries of Louis I. Kahn
Kraig Binkowski, Chief Librarian, Reference Library and Archives, Yale Center for British Art

Moderated by Jonathan Franklin, Librarian, The National Gallery, London 

Mellby, Building Art into Architecture: An Exploration of Ann Hamilton's Library Installations

Raphael and the Papal Library at the Vatican, John Singer Sargent and the Boston Public Library, and Rufino Tamayo and the Hillyer Art Library at Smith College: these are only a few of the many collaborations between artists and architects that resulted in triumphant spaces for public and private libraries around the globe. There continues to be a strong tradition of painters and sculptors joining forces with librarians and architects to imbed moments of artistic brilliance into our library buildings. One contemporary artist whose work is particularly intertwined with books and texts is the visionary Ann Hamilton, who is responsible for numerous temporary and three permanent installations in American libraries. Self-identified as ‘a maker,’ Hamilton develops spaces that both engage the senses and captivate the mind to bring art off the shelf and into direct confrontation with the public. Each installation is site-specific, responding to the history of the place and its visitors. The success of these projects is evident in the long waiting list of institutions eager to engage in similar collaborations.

This paper will focus on Hamilton’s three permanent commissions, beginning in 1996 with an installation for the San Francisco Public Library, home of the Osher Foundation Art, Music and Recreation Center. Nearly two hundred scribes volunteered to annotate selected catalog cards in more than a dozen languages representative of the diverse communities served by the Library. For the Seattle Public Library's building, which opened in 2004, Hamilton designed a 7,200-square-foot wood floor made up of 556 lines of text in 11 languages. The inverted texts, set like printing blocks about to be pressed onto a page, are the first sentences of books from library collections. According to the artist, visitors are both immersed in text and, like the pages they pore over, imprinted upon. Finally, “Verse” is a 2011 project installed within the floor of the Thompson Library at Ohio State University, in the artist’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio. A two-color cork surface was inlayed with a field of words set in relief, arranged in a literary concordance interweaving three different accountings of world history. The work combines the ephemeral presence of time and linguistics with the material tactility enhancing both the physical building and the users’ experience.

Binkowski, Light and Wood: An Intimate and Human Space within the Art Libraries of Louis I. Kahn

In the Reference Library of the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Library of the Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Louis I. Kahn created spaces and atmospheres that are particularly conducive to reading about and viewing art. In these rooms natural light combines with sympathetic materials and weaves into a timeless dance with thought and contemplation. This paper looks closely at the humanist elements of Kahn’s art libraries, focusing on the creation of unique library carrels which form the physical bridge between light and dark, inside and outside. Kahn borrowed from designs and ideas for carrels (and libraries) that he created for the Library at the Phillips Academy at Exeter, and I will look closely at these carrels and spaces that heavily influenced his subsequent library designs. Kahn’s library carrels are situated within large modernist structures and yet help to form a “room within a room” that both insulates and assimilates users from and into their surroundings. I relate these finely designed and crafted reading carrels to their concomitant libraries and museums as well as to other Kahn designs. By looking at the Exeter Library, as well as intimate spaces from the Fisher and Esherick Houses, I wish to gain an understanding of the architect’s thoughts about reading, libraries and museums, and how they are synthesised into the creation of human space.  


avatar for Jonathan Franklin

Jonathan Franklin

Librarian, National Gallery, London

avatar for Kraig Binkowski

Kraig Binkowski

Chief Librarian, Yale Center for British Art

Tuesday August 9, 2016 3:15pm - 4:15pm

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