I went to the French Book Art (Livres d’Artistes) at the mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library yesterday, on the last day of the exhibition. Surprisingly, this didn’t mean there were lots of viewers, rather the exhibition was sparsely attended. However there were a few good pieces in the show, but my criticism of the show actually revolves around the press release, talked about after the images.

book with drawing by Yves Tanguynotes by Duchamp for The Green Boxpoem by Picabiarock paintings by Rene CharJoan Miro drawing to Tristan Tzarainstallation shot

The press release which I have archived here, opens with the following line:

Delicate line drawings by Edouard Manet, brilliantly colored brushstrokes by Pablo Picasso, and eye-catching watercolors by Joan Miró

in an attempt to win over as many potential visitors as possible. Fact is that these ‘brilliantly colored brushstrokes’ by Picasso were just some orange swaths of paint around some text; the text (by Reverdy) was far more interesting than Picasso’s brushstrokes. And once the bold text disappears, the press release continues:

Although better known for their works on canvas, artists such as Picasso, Henri Matisse, and René Magritte collaborated with poets such as Mallarmé, Apollinaire, Gide, and others…

Again, “Picasso”, “Matisse”, blah blah blah! At least they bothered to highlight Magritte, whose collaboration with Alain Jouffroy (image featured at the top of the press release) is perhaps the most remarkable piece in show.

These things are hit and miss. On the one hand I understand the NYPL’s desire to attract as many visitors as possible, thus they name-drop the heavy-hitters in show, the artists who might be more ‘favorable’ with an older crowd. But they don’t mention Duchamp’s work until halfway through the press release (by which time Picasso has been mentioned five times) and they don’t even mention Guy Debord, who more-or-less had an entire vitrine-display all to himself, including collaborative work with Asger Jorn. Francis Picabia is another who isn’t even mentioned in the press release, but whose work is featured throughout the show.

So while I understand the desire to attract the larger crowd through the more popular names, and of course I understand that a press release can only contain so much information and so many names, eventually a schism takes place and these press releases actually become putting-off to another crowd that should be attracted inline with the other crowd, not sidelined completely.