Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2020 Issue

A New Use for Old Books – Commercialized Art


Books as brand art (TikTok user rosekaylee).

The sin of book desecration has a new convert and the outrage has spread through the world of social media like a video of a cute kitten playing with a ball of yarn. We have seen people cut books apart to create “artworks,” or treat them as mere physical objects. People will display them backwards, fore edges exposed, or by color coding. The infamous “books by the foot” enables you to buy them by your favorite color, content be damned. Some people actually buy old books to collect them, ignoring their purpose of being read. Can you imagine?


The latest horror comes through TikTok, the newest favorite social media. The benefit of TikTok is that it enables China to clandestinely learn everything about you. Why they want to know this is unclear. TikTok enables you to create short videos in case you find creating a YouTube video too demanding on your time. This one took only 31 seconds to outrage book lovers. In it, TikTok user rosekaylee transforms three books into something other than they were when she started.


In the wordless video, the unseen Ms. rosekaylee starts by painting a book. She paints the cover of one black, the next white. Next, she paints on a layer of varnish. The final step is unseen as it would take more time than a 31-second video allows. Off camera, she paints the name of high-fashion brands on the spines and covers. At the end, she displays her work, three books, lying on a table, with the names “Chanel,” “Dior,” and “Louis Vuitton” written on their spines.


Why did she do this? Who knows. Remember, there are no words with this video, just some incredibly annoying music. Whatever the reason, a lot of people either love or hate this idea. As of a few days ago, 7.8 million people had viewed the video.


Some people consider the destruction of a book a desecration, the equivalent of book burning. However, assuming rosekaylee is not doing this to rare and valuable books for some incomprehensible reason, these books are likely of little value and easily replaced. The reality is today thousands of books are being trashed probably everyday, as there are just too many unwanted and unneeded books in circulation. Others may be displeased with the sense of crass commercialism, using these books to promote some brand name. That's an understandable reaction, and yet crass commercialism can also be art. Ask Andy Warhol. I can't even imagine how many millions of dollars his Campbell's Soup can is worth. I'm sure rosekaylee would be happy to be recognized as the next Andy.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. $8,000 to $12,000.

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