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In the days of yearbooks (do schools make them anymore?), I remember grade school students would draw in each other’s and leave short messages and notes. This adolescent practice continues for most of us in the concept of the Facebook wall, where we often post funny photos and comments on our friends’ pages.
But if you’ve ever wondered what drives us to post and share in the first place, then the 17th-century practice of the liber amicorum, or book of friends, might have some answers. On a recent trip to the Getty Research Institute (with thanks to a tour and introduction from the USC Annenberg / Getty Arts fellowship program), I came across a liber amicorum owned by one Johann Heinrich Gruber, a merchant in Nuremberg. The book contained beautiful drawings from his friends, and as we learned, this book functioned in many ways like Facebook or a yearbook: with this collection of quotes and drawings, Herr Gruber was able to demonstrate his social status to others.
The institute took this liber one step further and, in a tribute to LA’s rich street art culture, invited street artists from around the city to contribute to a new publication, the LA Liber Amicorum. Nearly 150 artists participated, each contributing one sheet of drawings. These were all compiled into a book with “LA” emblazoned on the front — “LA,” of course, could reference either Los Angeles or Liber Amicorum — and it now graces the institute’s collection.
“The liber amicorum, which translates into ‘book of friends,’ was a 16th and 17th century fad,” David Brafman, the institute’s curator of rare books, told KCET’s Artbound. “Like a yearbook, you have these blank bound books and you go around and get people to add a coat of arms, or a painting, or a poem. It becomes part of your social identity and your networking.”
What makes this project so provocative is how it draws connections between 17th-century vernacular art practices, the social/collaborative nature of contemporary street art, and the importance of documentation and archives. Although not without its controversy, it’s a terrific example of how to breathe life into museum collections and bring those collections to the public in a new way. And the best part? Both Gruber’s book and the LA Liber Amicorum are fully digitized and available online.
Editor’s Note: This endorsement is part of a special edition that Hyperallergic published on the ongoing legal case to return the photos of Renty and Delia Taylor to their descendants. * * * Your Honour — On April 11, 2018, The New York Times published a report on the differential outcomes for maternal and infant…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…