Artists’ Books – A Success Story Der Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König

7 May – 28 August 2022

“That’s what is great about certain concept books, when they fall out of their concept and suddenly it becomes sensuous. And then the gut feeling sets in, and only then does it get really interesting: It all depends on the artistic potency of those who make the book. It communicates directly. Books like that need a special stage, even if they’re small and quite modest.” – Walther König, 2022

© Museum Angewandte Kunst

The Walther König bookshop and affiliated publishing house are contemporary art education institutions. They exert a decisive influence on developments in art in Germany and the world. In the fifty-four years of the company’s existence, it has opened further sales locations in addition to the original shop at Ehrenstrasse 4 in Cologne. The publishing house has put out more than 4,000 titles, including a large number of artists’ books. The publisher and bookseller Walther König is known for providing many meanwhile famous artists with the first forum ever for the book as art, and for his ongoing support of their development.

The emergence of artists’ books in the 1960s is a consequence of modernism and its replacement of art genres in favor of an expansion of art forms in the sense of an open concept of art. The publishing company of the Walther König bookstore follows this understanding. The foundation and location of his bookstores, which succeeded the publishing company, offered the artists’ books a combination of production, publication, trade and reception in the circle of well-stocked specialist literature on art and thus a corresponding positioning and establishment in the art world.

Thus it can be stated that Walther König’s publishing strategy contributed significantly to promoting the medium of the book as an autonomous and mobile art space and to promoting the possibility of the book as an art object in all its facets of descriptive material, pictoriality or binding.

The Museum Angewandte Kunst and its Department of Book Art and Graphics were devoting an exhibition to this special alliance of art, the book, and creative publishing for the first time: a publisher’s portrait along the lines of artists’ books. A fundamental aspect of the show was the inquiry into König’s publicistic strategies, which since the 1960s contributed decisively to the establishment of important art currents and sensitized readers to the phenomenon of the artist’s book.

Curator: Dr. Eva Linhart