Not Your Ordinary Art Gallery
Since 2002, the Brooklyn College Library has been home to a carefully curated cache of world-class art. Associate Professor and librarian Miriam Deutch is eager to reintroduce us to the collection, which is displayed throughout the library in what she calls unconventional spaces, accessible to all.
Video by Salim Hasbini
When, beginning in 1999, the Brooklyn College Library was renovated and expanded, the building’s purpose was also broadened. “We completely rethought how it would be used,” says Miriam Deutch, associate professor and librarian at Brooklyn College. “It became a place for teaching and learning, contemplation, computing, for individual exploration and group collaboration,” for meetings, lectures, and performances, and an art collection—a somewhat hidden gem on the campus.
Acquired mostly through New York City’s “Percent for Art” law, which states that one percent of the budget of certain city-funded construction projects must be spent on art for the public spaces of those facilities, the collection includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, and prints by world-class artists, such as Chakaia Booker, Sarah Sze, Xu Bing, and Shahzia Sikander, as well as works by renowned modern masters Alberto Giacometti, Käthe Kollwitz, Ed Rusha, Alexander Calder, Georges Braque, and Robert Motherwell.
“The Brooklyn College art professors, the college archivist, and I spent months identifying artists and visiting galleries in search of exceptional art for the new library’s large and prominent spaces,” says Deutch. “We were eager to create a diverse collection that reflects Brooklyn College’s students, who mostly live in Brooklyn but hail from more than 100 countries.”
By the library’s reopening in 2002, the committee had assembled an impressive collection. “Once the works were displayed, the library became seen as a place for art,” says Deutch. “Artists and alumni soon began to donate works, and donations begot more donations.”
The more than 100 pieces in the collection are displayed in “almost every space in the library,” says Deutch. It's an unconventional way to view the works, but she is determined that the public, especially the students, have access to the works. “The collection serves as an educational starting point, something that stimulates curiosity, encourages careful looking, promotes visual literacy, and supplements classroom learning.”
Deutch says that the library can be an introduction to how to look at art for those who have little or no exposure to museums and galleries. “Art can educate and enrich, as well as provoke and enrage, and creating a little stir can be a sign of success. If art is doing what it should, it expands visual language,” she adds.
You can view the library’s collection in person by picking up an audio tour and map at the circulation desk. Or you can take a virtual tour of the collection.