A large-scale public artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith was today unveiled inside the first of the new spaces officially opened as part of State Library Victoria’s $88.1 million redevelopment project.

Spanning a 29×5 metre wall and titled Open book, it is the largest work the Melbourne artist has created to date and one of her most personal.

artist Tai snaith poses in front of the large book pages of her artwork

It features a series of photographs of intricate ‘assemblages’ using found or made objects including ceramic pieces handmade by the artist, dried flowers and seeds, and family heirlooms, placed atop 15 open books from the Library’s collection.

Tai says the work – featuring personal artefacts such as her grandmother’s Bakelite bingo counters and other items collected in her travels – explores both the hereditary nature of collecting, a practice that spans generations in her family, and her lifelong love of books.

“Since I was a young girl, books have underpinned my artistic practice and provided a constant and endless source of inspiration. Through this work, I wanted to convey the magic of the act of opening a book and I hope to communicate what it is to be inspired in a library. Everyone needs books at some point in their lives and anyone can go into a library. That egalitarianism, the fact that you can walk into a library and no one will question why you’re there, is so important,” Tai said.

Tai’s work was selected from 77 submissions from artists, illustrators and designers across the country in response to the Library’s call out for work inspired by its collection of books relating to Victoria’s flora, fauna and natural history.

State Library Victoria CEO Kate Torney said Tai Snaith’s work conveyed the way books and, in particular, the Library’s collections are a rich source of inspiration for many people in many different ways.

“This stunning work will capture the imaginations of the thousands of visitors who walk through the Library’s doors each day, sparking a sense of wonder and curiosity, just as our beautiful spaces and collections have done for the past 162 years,” Kate Torney said.

State Library Victoria CEO, Kate Torney and artist Tai Snaith in front of a large book

State Library Victoria CEO Kate Torney and artist Tai Snaith in front of the artwork Open book

The artwork was unveiled at today’s official opening of the Library’s new spaces, which include the Russell Street Welcome Zone – a vibrant collaborative space that is home to a new cafe, Guild, and an expanded Readings bookshop – heritage events space the Isabella Fraser Room, and two reading rooms.

The spaces are accessed by the reopened Russell Street entrance and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

The entrances on La Trobe and Russell Streets will be the Library’s main entry points while the Swanston Street entrance and ground floor close temporarily for construction, reopening in spring 2019.


More to explore

Find out more about the Library’s Vision 2020 redevelopment.

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