Books with Pictures by Laura Gray McCann

I am surrounded by books. I sit in a cubicle whose walls are the Dixon library shelves. I am constantly shoving books onto my bookshelf and  piling books to the corner of my desk. I go home and relish the sight of more books on my (new!) bookshelves and in the fireplace (yes, the fireplace). I have been told (by my sister who is a professor of literature) that my books are “better” because my books have pictures. Many of my books, you see, are catalogues.

Not J. Crew, Anthropologie, or Crate and Barrel catalogs—but catalogues—exhibition catalogues and auction catalogues. Both are filled with glorious pictures. But sometimes more thrilling are the auction catalogues. I compulsively collect catalogues from Christie’s and Sotheby’s—in fact, I actually paid to have a box of these precious catalogues shipped overseas once. This is not a feeling I get from J. Crew pre-fall 2015. Auction catalogues are beautiful publications filled with free knowledge and with photographs of things I could only dream of seeing in real life, much less owning. Each lot has been catalogued, revealing not only its essential information—object, maker, date, material—but also the provenance of the object—where it’s been, with whom and for how long. This places the work not only within art historical context but within the wider context of history itself. Each object is a little history lesson, each one has a story. What’s more is that the paintings, furniture, silver, sculpture, and ceramics within their pages are works of art that may never be seen again in the public eye. To have them memorialized in a catalogue is a way for me to keep a bit of say, a gilt-wood armchair given by Louis XV of France to his mistress, for myself. In my fireplace.

- Laura Gray McCann, Curatorial Research Assistant

Posted by Chantal Drake at 9:48 AM
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