Fore-edge Painting
With Tauba Auerbach, Kerstin Brätsch, Cansu Çakar, Enzo Cucchi, Camille Henrot, Victor Man, Andrea Salvino, Andro Wekua
MACRO and Bibliotheca Hertziana

28 September 2021 – 1 February 2022
#Bibliographic Office

Fore-edge Painting enacts a new exploration of the universe of publishing, addressing different contexts, time frames, places and practices of the contemporary and of the past. Eight international artists have been invited to freely come to terms with the historical tradition of decorating the fore edge of books with paintings and illustrations, giving rise to original works with a hybrid nature, which are sometimes invisible at first glance.

The practice of decorating and painting the vertical edge of the pages of books to indicate their content or their owner dates back to the Middle Ages, when volumes were stored lying down. Towards the end of the seventeenth century and during the two centuries to follow, this technique became popular in England, where artists and craftsmen began to make “disappearing” paintings on books—secret images that appear only when the pages are fanned. Floral decorations, landscapes, vernacular or erotic scenes were made by spreading the pages, often followed by the gilding of the edges to conceal the work.


The volumes selected and transformed into artworks by Tauba Auerbach, Kerstin Brätsch, Cansu Çakar, Enzo Cucchi, Camille Henrot, Victor Man, Andrea Salvino and Andro Wekua are displayed at MACRO and in the Sala del Disegno of the seventeenth-century Palazzo Zuccari, headquarters of the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History since 1913. Fore-edge Painting is thus a double exhibition, both playing with the ambivalence of these works and extending beyond the walls of the museum. On the one hand, it presents an unusual landscape composed of books decorated employing a technique from the past in a contemporary art museum. On the other, it brings contemporary painting into the historic spaces of one of the world’s most important libraries and research institutes on the history of art.




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Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 12 pm – 8 pm
Friday, Saturday: 12 pm – 10 pm
Free entrance

Bibliotheca Hertziana
Tuesday – Friday, 2.30 pm – 6.30 pm, free entrance in groups of ten people, which is the maximum capacity of the Sala del Disegno. More information here.
Free guided tours to Palazzo Zuccari and the exhibition are offered in Italian on the following dates and times: October 16, 10 am and 11 am; November 6, 9 am and 10 am; November 27, 10 am and 11 am; December 11, 9 am and 10 am; January 15, 2022, 10 am and 11 am
Book your guided tour



Curator: Luca Lo Pinto
Coordinated by Sara Catenacci (curatorial), and Lorena Stamo (production)
Exhibitions and Events Assistants: Giulia Caruso, Beatrice Schivo
Exhibition design: Marco Campardo
Art handling: Fabio Pennacchia
Assistant art handler: Matteo Pompili
Graphic production: Gimax
Insurance broker: MAG

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History

Heartfelt thanks to all the team of Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History. In particular to: Prof. Dr. Tanja Michalsky, Acting Director; Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen, Director; PD Dr. Golo Maurer, Head Librarian