Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library

Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library

Date & Time

Tue–Sun | 11am–7pm


JC Contemporary


Free of charge


The Artists’ Book Library is an ongoing collection of Asian artists’ books and an integral part of the Arts Programme of Tai Kwun Contemporary. Artists’ books are publications that have been created as artworks, in which artists use books as a medium of artistic expression. Often published in limited numbers, sometimes even unique pieces of art, artists’ books challenge the idea, content and form of traditional books. Tai Kwun Contemporary's Artists' Book Library is open and accessible to the public, free of charge, as a source for learning and research.


SELF, AS PORTRAIT |  21.09.2021–02.01.2022

Portraiture, which records the likeness of a person or group, often illustrates family ancestry, conveys social standing, or documents notable events. Within this popular art genre is self-portraiture, where artists frequently present themselves, aided by a mirror, in the act of creation.

Self, as Portrait examines how portraiture and self-portraiture extends to “art in print”—artists’ books, magazines, zines, and other printed matter. The display of mostly Asian artists’ and publishers’ works from the Artists’ Book Library explores how our sense of self, whether whole or fractured, changes and evolves through adversity while encouraging empathy, self-consciousness, and care.

Mirrored surfaces resonate here, too. They refer to the portrait-making process and also point to modes of representation, self-presentation, even self-absorption. Echoing today’s pervasive social media culture, Self, as Portrait highlights how multiplicity and circulation characterise published works, while its physically reflective books invite visitors to look, think, and become “self” absorbed.

Self, as Portrait includes works by Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou Rahme, Farah Al Qasimi, Olga Bubich, Chan Wai Lap, Teresa Chen, Đào Tùng, Kristopher Ho, Takashi Homma, Ishiuchi Miyako, Tenmei Kanoh, Barbara Kapusta, Misaki Kawai, KEITATA, Firenze Lai, Suzy Lee, Leung Chi Wo, Leung Yiu Hong, Mabuhigh Daze, Yasumasa Morimura, Serge Onnen, PARKETT No. 49 (Laurie Anderson, Douglas Gordon, Jeff Wall), Angel Shaw, Quan Shen, Tiffany Sia, Jasper Sebastian Stürup, Mengyang Wang,  and Jun Yang. Organised by Ingrid Pui Yee Chu, Associate Curator, Artists’ Book Library & Public Programmes. Special thanks to Ka Yee Cheng, Miki Tsui Shuk Wai, and the Tai Kwun Contemporary team.

Love Books By Artists

#LoveBooksByArtists features selections from the Artists’ Book Library—a growing collection of Asia-centred, artist-driven publications—and through its programme of talks, live events, displays, editions, workshops and special projects highlighting books as a medium of artistic expression.

Jimi Tsang Moments in Limbo

Jimi Tsang, Moments in Limbo (2015-2018). Courtesy of the artist. For more images, please click here.

Hong Kong artist and self-taught photographer Jimi Tsang explores the living conditions of a city perpetually in flux. The Hong Kong he portrays appears calm on the surface—and yet the sadness and tension of the city seeps through in his formal compositions and subtle observations of facial expressions and gestures. Echoes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Daido Moriyama, and Bruce Gilden emerge in the artist’s unflinching depiction of pre-and post-Handover Hong Kong.

Associate Curator of Education & Public Programmes Louiza Ho selects "Moments in Limbo", a 40-page, self-published photo-based zine by Jimi Tsang, printed in an edition of 150. The zine artfully and powerfully compels us to observe attentively, and brings us on a journey to the uncertainties of the future. The balloon on the cover encapsulates the state of affairs: something that symbolises joy and celebration is now frozen. Does this evoke something celebratory—or something in limbo?

Last year, Tsang took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.

Fiona Tan Vox Populi

Fiona Tan, Vox Populi (2006–2012). Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery. For more images, please click here

Like much of her art, Indonesian-born, Amsterdam-based artist Fiona Tan plays both "the traveller and the anthropologist" as a way to explore what curator Lynne Cooke calls, "the means by which self-awareness [and] self-understanding may be construed" in her book works.

This includes Artists' Book Library and BOOKED: Project Manager Ingrid Pui Yee Chu's selection: "Vox Populi" (Book Works, 2006-2012). Tan's photo book series—"voice of the people" translated from Latin—traces her visits to Norway, Sydney, Tokyo, Switzerland, and London to produce five pocket-size publications with accompanying texts over six years. Evoking family albums and travel guides, colour snapshots are grouped in sections: "Home", "Nature", and "Portraits", which draw comparisons between the cycles of life in different communities and countries. Produced before the current travel and border restrictions, they also hark back to the unguarded moments of lives lived beyond the lens.

Last year, Tan took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.

Popo-Post Art Group Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story

Popo-Post Art Group, Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story (2019). Courtesy of the artists. For more images, please click here

Headquartered in WhatsApp group chats, Hong Kong's Popo-Post Art Group rejects the comforts and demands of a physical studio. In opposition to how the logic of finance and real estate limits possibilities for affordable places to live and work, Popo-Post Art Group makes use of idle and underrated spaces for their creative endeavours. Here is their guide for some real rest and recuperation.

This week, Associate Public Programmes Curator Hera Chan selects "Real Estate Zine: Bedtime Story" (2019). The zine takes the bed as a unit of measure, with the idea having evolved from a 'bed-sized' exhibition based on the premise of a model home. Thinking of the bed as a measuring device, or as a saleable lot, what kind of inhabitation is possible within this scaled-down rectangle? The zine offers up answers, with in-depth analyses of sleeping positions, bedtime literature reviews, and practical how-tos—including tips for falling asleep and dreaming sweet dreams. This is the first publication made by this emergent artist collective, and indicative of other Hong Kong-based art groups that frequently produce small-scale zines, related ephemera, and pop-up events. 

Last year, Popo-Post Art Group took part in "Under-Cover: Investigations in Art Publishing", a programme series curated by Hera Chan, Ingrid Pui Yee Chu and Louiza Ho.

Water With Water Orientalism Z to A

Water With Water, Orientalism Z to A (2019). For more images, please click here

Produced in an edition of 50, "Orientalism Z to A" (Edition One Books, 2019) presents a reverse-alphabetical re-ordering of the words in Edward Said's "Orientalism" (1978). Created by Doha-based experimental publishing and visual research project Water With Water (W/W/W) following their 2018 residency at DesignInquiry, W/W/W ended up with this simple counter-alphabetical organisational system after sorting and re-sorting, re-ordering, and re-searching "phrases, sentiments, and other curious combinations" in Edward Said's "Orientalism"—an influential treatise on the enduring discursive hold of assumed Western civilisational unity and superiority. In a way, "Orientalism Z to A" works in the vein of literary puzzles, riddles, and interventions, from ancient antecedents to Surrealist, Dadaist, and concrete poetry. One might also be reminded of OULIPO works, such as "La Disparition" (1969) by Georges Perec, where the entire novel was written without the vowel "e". It might be helpful to think of "conceptual writing" as elaborated by Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith: to treat texts as "literary ready-mades" that undergo a set of procedures, generative instructions, or constraints.

One thus does not read the work as much as think about the idea of the work; one seeks not to be sentimental or romanticise "creativity" or "originality" per se but rather to engage texts materially. In this sense, "Orientalism Z to A" is at once a sly comment on orientalism—the "reverse" order furthermore references how the Arabic script is read from right to left—as well as a conceptual yet experiential sensation of texts in an age of informational processing. "Experiential", for one, can mean having favourite sections in the book.

"Orientalism Z to A" was selected by Daniel Szehin Ho, Editor & Project Manager, and Director of BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair. Along with the Artists' Book Library, Tai Kwun Contemporary also engages with the interstices of "art" and "publishing" through its annual art book fair, as well as a number of commissioned artists' books, special projects and public programmes.

Chi Tsai Ni Topology in Bed

Chi Tsai Ni, Topology in Bed (2015). For more images, please click here

"Topology in Bed" (nos:books, 2015), a palm-sized book by the Taiwanese artist Chi Tsai Ni, presents a photographic series of peculiarly arranged pillows and duvets on an otherwise empty bed. Together with the photographer Etang Chen, Chi Tsai Ni documented these unintentional temporary sculptures recreated from memory.

The story goes like this: from around 1989 to 1999, Ni's daughter would, after returning home from school, find her parents' bed strangely arranged—duvets rolled up, intertwining and overlapping with pillows in geometric or organic forms, never repeating themselves. Prodded by his daughter, Ni recalled his younger days­ of travelling with friends and lodging by mistake in a "love motel". There they found a pile of "blanket-mountains" intended as naughty innuendos, and that would later become Ni's inspiration to recreate this for his wife. Ni's recreations of these tongue-in-cheek sculptures, presented matter-of-factly in the book, result in an awkward, humorous, yet loving peek into the ultimate taboo—your parents' bedroom.

"Topology in Bed" was printed in 500 copies by nos:books, an independent publisher founded in Taipei in 2008 by artist Son Ni, who was later joined by Hong Kong artist Chihoi. Focusing on close collaborations with conceptual artists, they produce publications that push the physical form of the book, making each limited edition a work of art in its own right.

"Topology in Bed" was chosen by Eunice Tsang, Associate Curator of BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair. Along with the Artists' Book Library, Tai Kwun Contemporary also engages with the interstices of "art" and "publishing" through its annual art book fair, as well as a number of commissioned artists' books, special projects and public programmes.

Pratchaya Phinthong Disasters

Pratchaya Phinthong, Disasters (2015). For more images, please click here

Tai Kwun Contemporary’s curator Xue Tan selects "Disasters" (onestar press, 2015) by Bangkok-based conceptual artist Pratchaya Phinthong who is continuously thinking of how to present values and systems alternatively, this time in book form.

The book contains one stunning piece of gold leaf—the heavenly colour of Thai temples and the historic symbol of the world’s banking system; for many, this suggests corruption. This value of the gold leaf taken from Thailand equals the cost to produce the book in France. It sleeps inside the otherwise blank pages and enclosed within cover images detailing an earthquake in the Philippines, the catastrophic effects of which are mimicked by the simple action of opening the book, which turns the gold into dust.

Phinthong’s book "Disasters" hints that all matter, good and evil, is connected.

Pratchaya Phinthong, also in the exhibition "My Body Holds Its Shape", is among several artists in Tai Kwun Contemporary exhibitions whose artist books are featured in the Artists’ Book Library.