I first discovered the ceramic artist and writer Edmund de Waal through his best-selling book The Hare with the Amber Eyes. If you are not familiar with the memoir, it’s a compelling read that encompasses not only de Waal’s family history, but European history, art,religion,philosophy, and much more. But de Waal may be best known for his installations of porcelain vessels.
His newest installation, at London’s British Museum, is titled Library of Exile . The work is made up of two thousand books just like the ones you would find in a bookstore or library, but the walls and shelves are made of porcelain. In the installation, the books themselves are the usual board and paper, but de Waal has instructed visitors to write their names on a label tucked inside each book, and encourages people to talk about books while they are in “The Library.”The artist was inspired to create the installation by the library of his great-grandfather, which was looted by the Nazis in Austria.
The library includes the work of almost 1,500 writers from 58 countries in dozens of languages and is still growing with people encouraged to suggest new titles. After six months at the British Museum the books in the library will be donated to the library of the University of Mosul in Iraq, which is being rebuilt after it was burned to the ground in 2015 by Isis. A million books were lost.