Art Displays in Bookstores - Literary and Visual Arts Unite

By | 7:16 PM

Bookstores have been expanding the definition of what patrons expect - not only as a place to buy books. Other forms of media such as music, video, computer programs and even video and board games have been a fixture for a long while.  With the larger franchises you can get all this and more; would you like a box of chocolates, coffee, or tea with that book? The direction would appear to be towards anything that stimulates our minds.  A strong trend I have noticed in rare book boutiques and used book sellers is the combining works of writers with those of visual artists.  Come for the books, stay for the art OR come for the art, and stay for the books. Artists read and write books after all, whether of the coffee table variety or instructional. As such, you may buy a book about art and/or get something to decorate your home.  Sometimes the booksellers hold events more akin to those of an art gallery, complete with opening parties for exhibitions. Is the book + art connection a branching out for the enterprise, or is it perhaps an adaption to stay relevant, or even just to capture a certain niche? 


jim houser, bookshop, art
Art display at bookshop

On one hand it is all art.  Literary art is an art form so the book itself is a work of art.  Even though many book shops are just wall-to-wall books and an art gallery is usually just the opposite but with visual art pieces instead of books, there are certainly instances of overlapping.  In fact, art galleries also will be seen to include a corner devoted to books.  Authors team up with illustrators and find themselves together at book-signing events; also art and literature are naturally very closely interwoven in the creation of graphic novels.



farewell, books, austin, bookstore, art
Farewell Books, first day.


A prime example of the art displayed in bookstores phenomena, Farewell Books is a progressive bookshop and art gallery that specializes in new and used hard to find books and magazines.  Farewell Books sets out to provide space for contemporary culture and community. In addition to release parties and poetry or prose readings as one would expect at bookstores, the owners host art openings, performances of theater and film, workshops, and so forth.

Another way in which book stores and visual art have come to intersect is in taking old books that are victim to time and are disintegrating and crafting them into artworks.  “Altered books” is a term for art made from disused old books incorporating elements of origami or sculpting in the process. You may find workshops that encourage book art or altered books held at used bookstores or libraries. This art reclaims outdated books in poor condition and turns them into unique even beautiful creations.  One that I know of in my community shared their reason for promoting altered book art: “The goal of Recycled Reads is to extend the life and maximize the use of books and media and by including crafting and up-cycling we can help meet the City of Austin's Zero Landfill goals. ”  So in this manner, a process of creating art and sourcing media to do so in the form of worn out books is good for raising awareness for the environment.  If you think about it, papier-mâché brought old newspaper media into the hands of artists in a similar fashion.


Altered book art, Lauren Moss, Black White and Red All Over
Black White and Read All Over  © Lauren Moss

Books and art media in their physical forms are being rapidly transformed into digital versions in our technologically advanced age. Digitized media are admittedly easier to store, replace and preserve, however, the characteristic of tactility still draws us to want to hold and have a more personal experience with books and art. A book shop is primarily a place for books, so it would be safe to assume that first time visitors expect only books - yet they find themselves intersecting with the art displayed along with the literature.  It is an innovative way to combine two cultures into one to enhance the experience for people browsing book stores to learn new stuff, find a non-specific gift or maybe just there to pass time.

Please feel welcome to comment with your experiences and opinions, or tell me about another place you know of that has a similar setup.  Share what you know as a patron or a shop owner. I am curious and want to learn more. This is so many things I love rolled into one - art, books, business and innovative commerce.  


© Rebecca H Knight, all images and media used are © their respective owners. All rights reserved.

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