Getty Research Institute Acquires Max Gimblett Artist’s Book Collection
New Zealand American artist Max Gimblett ONZM has celebrated six decades of creativity with the Getty Center’s acquisition of an archive of 275 of his artist’s books.
The Getty of Los Angeles is a leading global arts organization committed to the exhibition, conservation and understanding of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage. The Max Gimblett Artist’s Book Collection joins a select curation of books made by international contemporary artists from the U.S. and worldwide.
Now housed in the Getty Research Institute, the Gimblett book collection, a gift by the artist and his wife, scholar and curator Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, will be catalogued, scanned and made available to scholars and researchers worldwide at both The Getty Center and online. The Institute has one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world.
Max Gimblett, 86, was born in Auckland and has lived and worked in New York since 1972. Gimblett estimates he has made 65 return visits to New Zealand for exhibitions and teaching.
Combining words and images, Gimblett’s journals contain writings, drawings, questions, calculations, small paintings, collages, notes on travel and conferences, and quotes from others. The books document the sources of Gimblett’s work as a self-identified “Pacific Rim person” who grounds his practice, particularly his sumi ink painting, in Zen philosophy.
“Taken together as an archive and including Gimblett’s personal comments and sketches, these artist’s books portray a metaphysical richness of images and ideas,” said Marcia Reed, associate director and chief curator at the Getty Research Institute. “The stunningly bound volumes are not only unique but notably different from each other.”
The collection includes Gimblett’s first books which he started when growing up in Grafton in Auckland’s inner city. “I began writing and drawing in the blank pages of second-hand books when I was seven years old. Working in sketchbooks and journals has been the consistent and constant thread throughout my life,” he said.
During the two years of the pandemic, Gimblett – painter, calligrapher, and Zen monk – and his wife have lived and worked in their studio, home, and library on Broadway in SoHo, New York. For 45 years they lived and worked on the Bowery, where in the 1980s Gimblett began making quatrefoil canvases, often gilded to alchemical effect.
“We’ve been sheltering, working, cooking, writing, zooming, by necessity it has been a very focused and therefore productive time,” says Gimblett, who is making new work for exhibitions and collectors in both hemispheres. “My mentor when I came to New York was Len Lye, kinetic artist, and I have a lot of that in me, kinetic energy.”
Gimblett says he is deeply honoured by the Getty Research Institute ’s acquisition of his artist’s book collection. “This is one of the best places in the world for my work to reside and be available. I was a J. Paul Getty associate at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in 1991–1992, and to return in this way to the Getty is a highlight of my life.”
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is University Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University and the Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the former Warsaw ghetto.
The Getty Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library. The Research Library’s special collections include rare books, artists’ archives, prints and sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.
Among the 42 artists in the Getty Research Institute’s Artist’s Book Collection are Nobuyoshi Araki, Andrea Bowers, Chris Burden, Dave Eggers, Olafur Eliasson, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Sol Lewitt, Katherine Ng, Clemente Padín, Felicia Rice, Ed Ruscha, Barbara T. Smith, Beth Thielen, William Wegman and Tian Wei.