What Exactly is Book Art?

by Rakks | July 24th, 2015


The number of personal and public libraries found scrolling through our blog will tell you: Rakks is a huge supporter of books. We are art supporters, too and we are proud to be in many of the countries most prestigious museums, in both public spaces and playing a supporting role in their offices and workspaces.

This latest project is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts retail shop. When designer Katy Dale (Associate AIA) contacted us about this project, we knew it was right up our alley.

A Challenger of the Modern Artistic Landscape


Book Art is a genre that capitalizes on the artistry found in centuries of bookmaking and creates an interdisciplinary form of modern art. Book Art is what the title says it is—art composed of books. Though, defining it any further proves just as complicated as finding a definition for art itself. The book is a contained narrative that serves as a multi-faceted method of communication. Turning a book into Book Art involves utilizing the form of the book.

While its roots reflect the avant-garde movements of Constructionism, Futurism, and Surrealism, the form began to reach recognition as a distinct genre in the 1970s. The Center for Book Arts in New York opened around this time, becoming the first institution to study and teach Book Art. The genre’s lack of concrete definition has rendered it limitless. Book artists are incredibly skilled and, in the art world, their work is unfortunately underrepresented.

What is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts?


The founders of the MCBA aimed to elevate Book Art in the art world so it could receive the recognition it deserved. They dreamed of providing an accessible space for existing book artists to practice their craft while educating the next generation about process and history. So, in 1985, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts opened. Minnesota Center for Book Arts joined with The Loft Literary Center and Milkweed Editions to become a founding tenant of Open Book, the first comprehensive literary and book arts facility in the nation. The renovated and reinvigorated century-old building was the first cultural landmark of the Minneapolis downtown riverfront, which is now also home to the Guthrie Theatre, Mill City Museum, MacPhail Center for Music and Gold Medal Park. Open Book creates a lively destination for a diverse public interested in books, book arts and literary endeavors of all kinds.







The center’s vision is to create the world where “book art is created, cultivated, celebrated, and understood as a vital and lasting expression of culture.” Equipped with everything from studios to a reference library, the MCBA serves upwards of 70,000 patrons a year. The center leaves no demographic untapped; all walks of life and skill levels are welcome. The classes found at the MCBA are truly one-of-a-kind, allowing for everyone from K-12 students to “life long learners”.

How is Rakks Involved?


In the spirit of keeping Book Art accessible, artists’ books are available for purchase at the Shop at MCBA. The shop offers utterly unique gifts for the book-lover or writer in your life. Designer, Katy Dale (Associate AIA) from Christian Dean Architecture, specified the Rakks Shelving System for the shop.

“We needed a strategy to use space efficiently for books and product display while also allowing the character and volume of the industrial space to remain. I started looking for products to help us achieve these goals and came across the Rakks system,” said Katy. “Rakks had several application examples in museum shops and libraries, which aligned well with our program. One of the major selling points for me was Rakks ability to span support poles from floor to ceiling. This capability accentuated and utilized the height of the ceiling and providing a flexible double-sided display in front of the large storefront windows.” Katy further explained, “ Custom casework was designed to fit within the Rakks system, so we were able to coordinate with other freestanding casework throughout the entire project. One of the benefits to the client is that Rakks provides flexibility to add, subtract, or rearrange the display components as needed. We continued the use of Rakks in the library and even in their upstairs office space. In the end, we were thrilled with both the aesthetic and functional results.”


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