The digitisation of twenty-five artist’s books by Antoni Tàpies


Author: Núria Solé Bardalet (Fundació Antoni Tàpies)
Peer reviewer: Rony Vissers (PACKED vzw)

Within the framework of the DCA project the Fundació Antoni Tàpies has digitised twenty-five artist’s books by the Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012). The main goal for the digitisation of the books is access.
The Fundació Antoni Tàpies faced three main challenges:
• how to reproduce the artist’s books while maintaining their significant properties in the digital form?
• how to digitally reproduce them in order to ensure that, despite the institution’s lack of expertise in digital storage and preservation, the results will not become lost in the near future?
• how to make the digital reproduction online accessible in order to create an experience that can be considered to be the digital equivalent of the analogue experience?
This case study describes how the institution dealt with such challenges.

1. Short description of the collection
The Fundació Antoni Tàpies was created in 1984 by the artist Antoni Tàpies to promote the study and knowledge of modern and contemporary art. It opened its doors in June, 1990. It takes a plural, interdisciplinary approach and aims to set up cooperative ventures with experts in different fields of learning to contribute to a better understanding of contemporary art and culture. It combines the organisation of temporary exhibitions, symposia, lectures and film seasons with a range of publications to accompany the activities and periodic shows of Antoni Tàpies’ work. The institution owns one of the most complete collections of Tàpies’ work. Its library specialises in modern and contemporary art. It also houses the largest archive on Tàpies’ work, collections on Asian and Pre-Columbian art and culture as well as the art of Africa and Oceania that have had a great influence on the evolution of 20th century art. Other subjects, such as architecture, design, the decorative arts, photography, film and video are also represented.


2. The artist
Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona in 1923 into a family that had been part of a publishing and book-selling tradition, which awoke in him an early love of books and reading. He abandoned his law studies to devote himself to art. By the 1940’s he was already exhibiting his artworks. Tàpies had a strong interest in the use of materials foreign to academic artistic expression and in experiments with new techniques. The matter paintings make up a substantial part of his work. He believed that the notion of matter must also be understood from the point of view of medieval mysticism: magic, mimesis and alchemy. Antoni Tàpies also produced a large number of collector’s books in close association with poets and writers such as Rafael Alberti, Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Joseph Brodsky, Joan Brossa, Jean Daive, Jacques Dupin, J.V. Foix, Jean Frémon, Pere Gimferrer, Jorge Guillén, Edmond Jabès, Josep M. Mestres Quadreny, Alexander Mitscherlich, Octavio Paz, José Saramago, Shuzo Takiguchi, José-Miguel Ullán, José Angel Valente and María Zambrano. Tàpies emphasised the expressive values of material in these books as well. He also wrote essays which have been collected in a series of publications, some translated into different languages. Antoni Tàpies died on 6 February, 2012.


Shuzo Takiguchi and Antoni Tàpies. Llambrec material, 1975. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona / Vegap.
Photograph: Fernando Cortiglia. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Available under a CC BY-NC-SA license.



3. The artworks
Within the framework of the DCA project the Fundació Antoni Tàpies decided to digitise twenty-five of Antoni Tàpies’ artist’s books. In each, Tàpies explored the expressive values of the material, the sequencing of the pages, the book format, ... The artist frequently used paper with strongly marked textures (e.g., Petrificada petrificante, 1978, or L’estació, 1984), paper which has been violently torn and crumpled (e.g., Novel·la, 1965) or stained, scraped or pierced (e.g., Anular, 1981, or Llull-Tàpies, 1985). In some books he has inserted or glued common, everyday object (e.g., stamps in Nocturn matinal, 1970). The formats of the books vary greatly; some are small, others are extremely big. Tàpies also frequently uses gatefold spreads in his books. Not all of the books are bound; some are like folders containing loose sheets of paper. All of the books are stored in specially designed boxes that were, like the books themselves, handmade by the artist.


Joan Brossa and Antoni Tàpies. Frègoli, 1969. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona / Vegap.
Photograph: Fernando Cortiglia. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Available under a CC BY-NC-SA license.



Joan Brossa and Antoni Tàpies. Nocturn matinal, 1970. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona / Vegap.
Photograph: Fernando Cortiglia. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Available under a CC BY-NC-SA license.



4. Status
All twenty-five artist’s books are catalogued by the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in a FileMaker database. The metadata scheme is an own metadata scheme, inspired by Dublin Core. Occasionally also information about individual pages has been recorded. All twenty-five artist’s books are also digitised. The resulting high-resolution digital reproductions are on an internal OS X Server (Apple) with a Drobo storage device. Low-resolution copies are stored in the content management system (http://www.fundaciotapies-ac.org) that aggregates the metadata from the FileMaker database. The images have not yet been sequenced and compiled.


5. Definition of the problem
The main goal for the digitisation of Antoni Tàpies’ artist’s books is access. It is difficult to give the public access to their print versions. They were usually only published in very small editions. In exhibitions they can only be shown in a display case behind glass, and exhibition visitors can usually only view one or two pages and don’t have access to the rest of the book. Although each page can be considered an autonomous work, exhibition visitors cannot fully experience the books as artworks.

The Fundació Antoni Tàpies faced three main challenges
1. how to digitally reproduce the artist’s books while maintaining their significant properties in the digital form?
2. how to digitally reproduce them in order to ensure that despite the institution’s lack of expertise in digital storage and preservation the results will not become lost in the near future?
3. how to make the digital reproductions online accessible in order to create an experience that can be considered the digital equivalent of the analogue experience?


The artist’s book Nocturn matinal (Joan Brossa and Antoni Tàpies, 1970) in a collection exhibition at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Photograph: PACKED vzw


The artist’s book Nocturn matinal (Joan Brossa and Antoni Tàpies, 1970) in a collection exhibition at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Photograph: PACKED vzw


6. Method to solve the problem
The digitisation process of the artist’s books at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies was made up of several steps
1. definition of the digitisation goals;
2. definition of the digitisation budget;
3. copyright clearance;
4. definition of the quality requirements and the digitisation task;
5. search for a subcontractor;
6. preparation for digitisation;
7. actual digitisation;
8. quality control;
9. cataloguing the digital files;
10. archiving the digital files;
11. making the digital reproductions online accessible.

The first three steps were already taken before the start of the DCA project in January 2011. It was decided that the books would mainly be digitised for the purpose of online access but that the quality of the digital reproductions had to be as high as possible to allow high quality access and to be able to use them also for other purposes. The digitisation budget was also already defined during the preparation phase. Copyright clearance was not a big issue because the Fundació Antoni Tàpies is in close contact with the Tàpies family, the heirs of Antoni Tàpies. The Fundació Antoni Tàpies holds copyrights on the digital reproductions. The institution is also in permanent contact with the Spanish collective right management organisation Vegap that is working on an agreement with the Spanish Ministry of Culture, especially for Europeana – the single access point to Europe's cultural heritage. Thanks to this agreement the Fundació Antoni Tàpies only has to inform them which artworks will be put online and contributed to Europeana but won’t have to pay a license fee.

For the digitisation the Fundació Antoni Tàpies decided to collaborate with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia that recently started a master’s degree in photography. The choice of the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia as subcontractor was based on the price, quality and willingness to closely collaborate with the person responsible for the documentation and archives at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, as well as to learn from each other. The Fundació Antoni Tàpies defined the quality requirements together with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.

Digital storage and preservation is still relatively new for the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, which has a much longer experience with the preservation of material objects (like for instance slide film). For this reason the Fundació Antoni Tàpies and the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia decided to photograph all artist’s books on reversal film and to digitise the slides afterwards. If something went wrong with the digital storage during the DCA project or in the coming years, the slides would still be available as a back up. The Fundació Antoni Tàpies also keeps reproductions of all Antoni Tàpies' other artworks on slide film. During the project both partners would also start experimenting with digital photography. All twenty-five books were also directly photographed with a digital camera. This was thanks to the access of this digital equipment through the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and the good experience other DCA partners had had with digital photography.


The box of one of Antoni Tàpies' artist's books. Photograph: PACKED vzw

The option of scanning the artist’s books instead of photographing them was dismissed for several reasons. Scanning does not offer the possibility of changing the lighting set-up, nor of capturing the boxes, books and sometimes even their pages in different positions and from different angles. Furthermore, the paper is handmade and Antoni Tàpies’ created kind of reliefs. To capture this, one has to be able to change the lighting set-up. The boxes, books and book pages could also not always be captured in a horizontal position. A certain field of depth was required that could not be reached through scanning. The light of most scanners is also not suitable for scanning this kind of artwork. It could have harmed the artist’s books.

It was decided that the artist’s books should be photographed in the Fundació Antoni Tàpies room where they are stored. There were several reasons for this: the temperature, humidity and lighting conditions in this storage room are controlled, there is always someone around in the museum to assist and to keep an eye on the digitisation work, and transportation of the books would require an expensive insurance.


The shelves with some of Antoni Tàpies' artist's books in the storage room at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Photograph: PACKED vzw

To capture the amount of information that the Fundació Antoni Tàpies wants to provide for its audience, it was often necessary to take more than one photograph of certain pages. Also the books and the boxes needed to be photographed from different angles to capture the front, back, left and right side. Some of the books and/or pages (due to the use of gatefold spreads) that have an unusual large format had to be put on the ground in order to create enough distance between the book and the camera. The lighting set-up had to be constantly adapted in order to make reliefs and other details visible through the light. Sometimes pages had to be heightened by putting things between them in order to make the depth of the cuts and piercings in the paper visible.

To produce the reproductions on slide film, a Hasselblad 503 CW camera was used with 40mm, 80mm and 120mm lenses. The film used was Kodak slide film Ektachrome E100 G 120, which offers optimal results thanks to its characteristics of sensitivity and grain. The digital camera used was the same Hasselblad 503 CW with the same lenses but with a Leaf Aptus-II digital back. The lighting was done with a Profoto D1Studio kit with two strobe lights, which provided a consistent flash-to-flash colour temperature of 5600 K (daylight). Every photograph not only captures (a part of) the book but also an 8-inch KODAK Q-13 Colour Separation Guide and Gray Scale and an identification number.

The films were developed in Barcelona at EGM laboratories and scanned afterwards with an Imacon Flextight 646 scanner and a Kodak iQsmart3 scanner. The digital results were retouched, colour-corrected and reframed. The digital born results (made with the digital camera) were also colour-corrected and reframed. The retouching and colour correction were done manually and picture by picture, with all necessary channel adjustments, channel by channel. The software used was Adobe Photoshop CS6. The colour correction was performed on calibrated Eizo ColorGraphic CG275W and QUATO Intelli Proof 190 monitors. During the digital retouching and after the colour correction, the 8-inch KODAK Q-13 Colour Separation Guide and Gray Scale and the identification number were hidden.

The photographing took ten days of work. The digitisation team consisted of two persons from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (the photographer and the assistant) and one person from the Fundació Antoni Tàpies (responsible for documentation and archive). The role of the person from the the Fundació was to decide, in collaboration with the photographer, how to photograph the artist’s books and their details, to assist the team from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, to keep an eye on the digitisation and to wrap and put back the books afterwards. The scanning of the slides took 250 hours. Reworking them 1,300 hours. Two people were also busy over a three-day period with the classification and archiving of the slides.


Núria Solé Bardalet taking care of one of Antoni Tàpies' artist's books. Photograph: PACKED vzw

All books will be disclosed through the on-line platform http://www.fundaciotapies-ac.org. This platform makes it possible to use the metadata in semantic web applications. The system allows for the metadata to be harvested by OAI-PMH. We use our own metadata scheme, inspired by DublinCore. Occasionally also information about individual pages has been recorded.

The Universidad Politécnica de Valencia handed over all digital files to the Fundació Antoni Tàpies on a 1 TB hard drive. This hard drive contains the scanned originals as well as the reworked ones. The resulting high-resolution digital reproductions are currently on an internal OS X Server with a Drobo storage device. Low-resolution copies are stored in a content management system (http://www.fundaciotapies-ac.org) that aggregates the metadata from the FileMaker database.

Furthermore, the slides were delivered in polypropylene envelops and placed in boxes adapted to conservation. Both materials are considered suitable for the conservation of photographic materials. Finally it was recommended that the Fundació Antoni Tàpies keep these boxes in a storage room where the temperature and humidity conditions are favourable for preservation.


Boxes with reproductions on slide film in the storage room at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies. Photograph: PACKED vzw

In order to sequence the book pages and make all digital material online available the Fundació Antoni Tàpies will use a software application inspired by the software used by the J. Paul Getty Museum. Such software does not only provide the possibility of browsing through the books pages but also that of adding additional information and translations and zooming in on details.


7. Results
The result of digitisation was 1,101 colour slides and 1,304 digital files.

.The technical characteristics of the master files produced through the scanning are:
- size: depending on the size of each book
- resolution: 300 ppi
- bit depth: 16 bits per primary colour (i.e., 48 bits)
- colour space: RGB
- colour profile: Adobe RGB1998
- file format: TIFF v6

The technical characteristics of the master files produced through the digital photography are:
- size: depending on the size of each book
- resolution: 300 ppi
- bit depth: 16 bits per primary colour (i.e., 48 bits)
- colour space: RGB
- colour profile: Adobe RGB1998
- file format: TIFF v6

The technical characteristics of the access copies are:
- size: depending on the size of each book
- resolution: 300 ppi / 240 ppi
- bit depth: 8 bits per primary colour (i.e., 24 bits)
- colour space: RGB
- colour profile: Adobe RGB1998
- file format: JPG


8. References
Interview with Laurence Rassel, Núria Solé Bardalet and Jesús Marull (Fundació Antoni Tàpies), http://www.dca-project.eu/documentation/detail/interview_with_laurence_rassel_nuria_sole_bardalet_and_jesus_marull_fundaci


9. Contact details of the author
Núria Solé Bardalet (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))



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