READY TO READ (Listos Para Leer : Diseno de Libros en Espana) is an exhibition of some 400 books designed and published in Spain between 2000 and 2006. Conceived as an X-ray of the state of book design in Spain today, the exhibition includes books of literature and essays, books on art, architecture and design, children’s books and artists’ books from different eras; it highlights both the conventional and the avant-garde talents of designers in modern Spanish publishing. What is more interesting is that the selected books are not special books; they are generally books that anyone can find in most bookshops in Spain.
“The distinguished Catalan design historian Enric Satue was the curator of the exhibition. Book design has been the focus of Satue's career for more than thirty years. Among his awards is the National Design Award. Satue is the author of many books on design and design history. He teaches at the San Jorge Royal Catalan Academy of Fine Arts. Jaime Hayon, who blurs the distinctions between art and design, was responsible for the image and installation design of the exhibition, including the contemporary furniture and furnishings that help to recreate the atmosphere of the reading rooms of the past. ” (http://www.aub.edu.lb/bulletin/107302.html)
The particularity of the exhibition is that it admits to the idea of the book as an object and rather than simply looking at a book from the standpoint of its content it recovers a fundamental aspect of the book: its graphic design. It may be true that one mustn’t judge a book by its cover, but one cannot deny that a book cover and its graphic design elements are a major selling proposition on top of being quality content in themselves.
After touring in a number of major cities, including New York, Washington, Sao Paolo, Beijing, Moscow and Paris, the exhibition READY TO READ was brought to Lebanon by the Spanish embassy as a flagship project for Beirut World Book Capital. Instead of “importing an exhibition that would be interesting but closed” the idea was to create a dialogue between the Spanish and Lebanese cultures. Therefore “NGO Maison de Livre, which aims to promote reading in Lebanon, invited a selection of designers and authors, including Randa Abdel Baki, Bassam Kahwagi, Antoine Abi Aad and Hassan Badawi, to make a selection from the output of Lebanese publishers.” The exhibition was then entitled “Dialogue” and, on top of showcasing book designs from both countries, included the organization of roundtable debates with Lebanese librarians and book professionals. The books were on display at the Villa Audi until May 27, 2009.
“The exhibition was made possible by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and by the Spanish State Agency for Design and Innovation or ddi. The exhibition, which toured internationally to more than six cities, will now be permanently housed in the Jafet Library, thanks to a generous donation from the Spanish Embassy.” (http://www.aub.edu.lb/communications/Documents/ready_to_read.pdf). From May 26 to June 2, 2010 the exhibition is once again opened to the public at the Jafet Library, AUB campus.
Here’s hoping this type of Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and cultural exchange will continue to take place beyond the framework of Beirut World Book Capital.