Royal Book Lodge

For the first time, the history of Royal Book Lodge is presented in a book—348 pages, 450 illustrations of works and references, 34 × 23 cm—written by art historian John C. Welchman and published by Hatje Cantz

(…) this book arose in the slipstream of my attempts to figure this out. The historian in me wanted to know more about what seemed like a significant engagement with various avant-garde and neo-avant-garde formations, especially with the Situationist International and some of its former members. My interests in contemporary art prompted an inquiry into how and on what terms the RBL navigated between the practices of some thirty different artists in Europe and North and South America and generated both collaborative and non-collaborative work. I was fascinated by the disparate spectrum of material, generic and geographical orientations taken on by RBLers, and by their resistance to being defined by the standard languages and practices of group or collective affiliation. What follows are some answers to these questions, or, perhaps better, some notes on, and reformulations of, them. After four years of back-and-forth, including a couple of extended visits to Montreuil—broken up, alas, by the coronavirus pandemic—I can see quite clearly that the Royal Book Lodge isn’t, exactly, any of the things I thought it might be.

What I can venture, however, is that questions raised and discussed by the Royal Book Lodge press up again some of the fundamental issues of our times: the radical reconception of materialities and bodies associated with renewed interrogation of the category “human”; a continued mutation in the making and functionality of images; and the need to better integrate, care, project, and prepare for the necessary transformations of the future.

—John C. Welchman

The book is built around the archives which form a “living history” of Royal Book Lodge projects and publications. It contains a significant collection of works, documents, photographs and editions associated with projects in collaboration with the artists, over the past 30 years. They are a tool for epistemological research and inspiration for future projects and bring together over 1500 works, including a collection of 44 artists’ books and 12 artists’ book manuscripts, and most of the original models of the books produced, accompanied by a wide range of reference works, scientific documents, avant-garde publications and a collection of notes, theoretical texts, photographic archives and films documenting the genealogy of the books and projects, the situations in situ with the artists.

John C. Welchman is Distinguished Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Modernism Relocated: towards a cultural studies of visual modernity (1995); Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles (1997); Art After Appropriation: Essays on Art in the 1990s (2001); Guillaume Bijl (2016); Past Realization: Essays on Contemporary European Art (2016); After the Wagnerian Bouillabaisse: Essays on European Art 1900-70 (2019); and Richard Jackson (2020).