The book bearing this promising title was inspired by the Mnemosyne Atlas by art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929). In a sense, the Mnemosyne Atlas has never really existed, at least not in the form Warburg envisaged. At the time of his death it comprised 79 wooden panels, covered with black fabric, on which were pinned some 2,000 photographs from Warburg’s collection. The images are ordered through relationships caused by an affinity for one another and the principle of good company.
The Atlas of Contemporary Art For Use By Everyone (2008) is initiated and published by the Musée des Arts Contemporains au Grand Hornu in Belgium. They wanted to make - in their own words - ‘a general publication about contemporary art, which is neither confined to artistic movements or academic disciplines, nor limited by geopolitical borders or the vagaries of the market.’ They departed from a distinction between vision, subject and place. From there on they separated these themes and created plates with images of contemporary art works, supplemented by a film still or an anonymous photograph here, a greek vase and an old painting there. The result is a book with more playfulness and clarity than any art history book I’ve seen, that draws beautiful visual links.
Is it for use by everyone though? I’m not sure, it could be. I can assure you it is thoroughly useful for a young artist.