Bookplate, which is a small print attached inside the front cover of a book, is traditionally inseparable from the notion of individuality. Ever since it originated in Europe in the 15th century, bookplate has been defined by its function as a mark of ownership, so much so that its most significant feature is the display of a book owner’s name. Just as a name can never fully show who one truly is, book owners would look for a more nuanced representation of their persona by commissioning artists to create customized bookplates featuring motifs inspired by their own attributes, such as profession, interests, religion and culture. As a result, the theme of a bookplate can reveal a great deal about the owner and how he/she wants to be portrayed as an individual.
Nonetheless, bookplate is never merely confined to the personal. They are widely collected for their artistic values. Bookplates lovers would even gather through associations and international conferences to exchange their collected works. In this way, bookplates are no longer restricted to one’s library, but become liberated to the wider world for a collective exchange of culture and ideas. It is this transformation of bookplate from the individual to the collective that this exhibition hopes to explore and interrogate. If the function of bookplate can move beyond serving only one person, can its subject matter also do the same? And if bookplate takes the form of prints, can it also be effective in promoting social values and delivering social commentary, roles that are conventionally attributed to this medium? Ultimately, can it be a form of art that unites the people in an era where the private realm seems impossible to be detached from their community and society?
This exhibition is divided into three parts: Inspiration and Ingenuity; Peregrination in Bookplates and Spirit of the Times, which aims to visualize this disappearing art form in Hong Kong, to turn bookplates from an art for the elite to an art for everyone, and to unite our people, our community and our society in bookplates.
Organisers: Hong Kong Baptist University AVA, Providence University Art Center