Art library

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An Artothek (Latin ars, artis = the art; Greek theke = the place) is a usually public institution that lends works of current art ( pictures , sculptures , sculptures, etc.) free of charge or more often for a small fee .


Most art libraries are affiliated with public libraries , but also art associations , art offices or cultural offices , museums , adult education centers , foundations , work libraries , etc. can be sponsors of art libraries.


Artothek in the Bonner Kunstverein (2009)

Art rental in Germany has existed for around 200 years, but during this period it was often just an idea and sooner or later the realization failed.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the art and book trade were a common branch of industry and pictures were already being loaned out within this framework. Even then, the main goal of these institutions was to promote understanding of art and to enable everyone to deal with it. After the book trade and art trade separated from each other, the lending of pictures, which was affiliated to the commercial book lending business, also ended.

At the beginning of the 20th century, painters Arthur Segal and Robert Erdmann attempted to encourage the rental of contemporary works of art, but it was not until the 1920s that the art rental industry began to boom. Facilities were set up in Frankfurt am Main , Berlin and Ulm . The main factors that brought about this change were the ideas already provided by Segal and Erdmann before the First World War to eliminate the sales crisis in works of fine art, as well as to apply art in the context of adult education. This phase of art lending was interrupted by the events of the Second World War. In the time of National Socialism , modern art was rejected and the entire art world was subjected to a change. The so-called degenerate art was banned, artists of the ostracized tendencies were banned from practicing and many of them emigrated.

After the Second World War, as after the First World War, the public was hardly able to raise money for works of art, and the idea of ​​lending art was taken up again. The art critic Franz Roh founded the picture lending office in Berlin in 1952 , which became a model for other institutions of this type. After Franz Roh's death in 1965, art lending was again forgotten by the public, as only a few of the previously established institutions survived.

At the end of the sixties, the development of Artotheken in Germany was influenced by abroad. In 1968, the Graphothek Berlin was founded in the Reinickendorf district of Berlin, orienting itself towards foreign institutions in which pictures had long been loaned out like books and the art libraries were often affiliated with public libraries. The subsequent establishment of further Artotheken in Germany (1973 in Cologne, 1986 in Munich) was largely based on the organization and working methods of this Berlin institution.

At present (as of 2005) there are around 130 art libraries in Germany, most of which are in public or academic libraries.


Art education

Many people are often perplexed by contemporary art and do not have the opportunity to deal more intensively with a work of art in an art exhibition or a museum. However, this is necessary in order to understand and tap into it. In a society that is constantly flooded with fast-moving media and commercial images, a concentrated, long-term view of art is both desirable and necessary. By borrowing it from an Artothek, the viewer can take a work home with them for a longer period of time and there, in familiar surroundings, let it work on them and deal with it. During this period, the picture is used not only by the borrower himself, but also by family members and visitors, so to speak, so it usually reaches a much larger audience than, for example, a borrowed book.

In the context of art education, the main goal is to approach people in particular who have not yet had close contact with contemporary art. Due to the non-binding nature of the loan, the fear of thresholds is reduced and thus people are also addressed who would not easily go to a gallery , for example . Likewise, art lovers are also addressed who, for financial reasons, cannot afford their own art objects. The Artothek thus fulfills an important educational mandate.

Artist funding

Another task of the Artotheken is the promotion of artists in the regional and supra-regional environment. By presenting their works in an art library, many artists reach a broader audience for the first time, opening up a further sales market for them. Art libraries do not act as sellers themselves, but they can establish contact between an interested buyer and the artist.

Last but not least, the purchase of works by the Artothek is a prestige factor for the artist, as the works are selected critically and according to qualitative characteristics.

Communication center

An art library not only offers the opportunity to borrow works of art, but also to have targeted conversations about art and artists. This is the place where like-minded people meet and, above all, people who are less experienced in dealing with art benefit from the knowledge of more experienced art enthusiasts. In addition, technically competent staff should be available as contact persons.

The Artothek is also an important place of communication for artists. Some art libraries organize discussion evenings or similar supporting programs that give those interested in art the opportunity to come into direct contact with the artist. In this way, they receive feedback on their work.


The inventory is usually composed of original works of art, but also partly of reproductions , whereby contemporary art is in the foreground.

The selection of the individual pieces is often made by a jury, which can be made up of museum directors, gallery owners, artists, etc., or by the art library management itself. In addition to targeted purchases, donations and permanent loans from savings banks, banks or insurance companies play a role Provided a significant role. Taking over duplicates from a museum or art association is also a way of expanding the inventory.

In addition to the works of art, some art libraries also offer exhibition catalogs , information about artists (biographies or the like) and specialist literature on art in their holdings.

Individual evidence

  1. Johannes Stahl: Kunstverleih: a specific case of art mediation, at, accessed on February 11, 2013.


  • The art of art lending . Handbook for practical work in art libraries / ed. by Detlef Schwarz. Berlin: German Library Institute, 1988 (Dbi materials; 78). ISBN 3-87068-878-5
  • Aspects of art lending / ed. by Horst Dietze. Berlin: German Library Institute, 1986 (Dbi materials; 59). ISBN 3-87068-859-9
  • Juliane Hagenström: Images lend like books : art libraries and the use of communication politics as a marketing instrument. In: library. Research and practice. 23, 1999, No. 3, pp. 332-350

Web links

Wiktionary: Artothek  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations