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© Museum Angewandte Kunst

Whether it’s art, architecture or design, whether graphics, art history or theories of the latest aesthetics are in demand, everyone with a soft spot for books knows the Walther König publishing bookshop – and the design of its bags. In the art world, bookshop and publishing house have long been an institution. At Ehrenstraße 4 in Cologne, where the company’s headquarters and nucleus are located, not only has a book cosmos of its own formed over the years, the bookshop is also a meeting place for all those interested in what artists, designers and other creative people are doing. Beyond Cologne, one encounters branches in and around museums in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Bonn, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, London, Milan, Munich, Münster, Nuremberg, Paris, Stuttgart and Vienna. Among the special passions of Walther König, who founded the bookshop in Cologne in 1969, his wife and his son Franz, who now runs the business, are artists’ books.

Over the years, more than 4,000 titles have been published by the bookshop’s publishing house – including numerous artists’ books. König offered many artists who are renowned today a forum in the medium of books for the first time and continued to promote their developments later on. “The great thing about certain concept books,” says Walther König, “is when they fall out of their concept and it suddenly becomes sensual. Then the gut feeling comes in, and only then does it become really interesting. That depends on the artistic potency of those who make the book and that communicates itself directly. Such books need a special appearance, even though they are small and quite modest”.

Williams, Christopher (*1956), “Printed in Germany (red)”, “Printed in Germany (green)”, “Printed in Germany (yellow)”, 2014, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. Photo: Günzel/Rademacher © Museum Angewandte Kunst

Until 27 August, Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst and its Book Art and Graphics Department are devoting an exhibition to this special combination of art, books and publishing creative power under the title “Artists‘ Books – A Success Story”. The focus is, how could it be otherwise, on artists’ books designed by artists – since the 1960s for Walther König and later for his publishing house. The exhibition also explores König’s publishing strategies, which contributed to the establishment of important art movements and raised awareness of the phenomenon of the artist’s book.

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