Published Saturday April 9th, 2011, The Telegraph-Journal
By Tom Smart
Is the library one of our last truly public spaces? The exhibition ‘Logotopia: The Library in Architecture, Art and the Imagination,’ opening Sunday, April 17, at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, traces the history of the library to show it indeed is, along with why and how it can be preserved.
The Saint John Arts Centre is a local example of the Carnegie Library model. Photo: Kate Brydon, The Telegraph-Journal
The Morgan Library and Museum sits with great authority and presence on New York City’s Madison Avenue. Its origins as a private home and library of the early-20th-century financier, Pierpont Morgan are still evident, even though a modern addition of glass and aluminum encases what was once a yard between two mansions. It has a welcoming face – encouraging pedestrians to find in its galleries and rooms a comfortable public space to enjoy books and art – but it still shows its first incarnation as a home.
Entering, it becomes apparent that a private library is being shared with you. It’s your responsibility to take in the experience fully and deeply, and to enjoy the elixir of new knowledge and experiences given to you by the books and art. This is a library and an art gallery, as well as another sort of place – a creation made from words and pictures.
Yet, for many today, the existence of books, book publishing and perhaps even the very activity of reading are under threat. Sascha Hastings, curator of Logotopia: The Library in Architecture, Art and the Imagination, argues against the idea that the modern library is an outmoded form.
Hastings’ thoughtful and erudite exhibition, organized by Cambridge Galleries – Design at Riverside, opens Sunday, April 17, at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. In the exhibition catalogue, she writes that the library is one of the last truly public spaces in modern society.
The exhibition traces the origins and development of the library, and examines the quiet and private pleasures of a personal collection of books. By doing so, Hastings describes how the institution has proven agile and malleable enough to adapt to every circumstance thrown its way.
The brilliance of Logotopia is in the way Hastings reminds us we must have an iconography, comprising alphabets and visual signs, that expresses the imagination. She emphasizes this need in several thoughtful essays by guest writers, and in the works of art included in the exhibition.