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Album Amicorum, or Friendship Books

I was delighted to read about VPIG in the article in the blog by Kat Powell and was reminded how, by Kat and friends sharing their sketch books, that they are carrying on a centuries old tradition of Album Amicorum, or Friendship Books, which were the precursor to today’s autograph book.

The original books started in Germany in the 16th century and friends would paint or draw in a book, sometimes around someone else’s signature. The books were also carried by people when they traveled and they would have the hosts or other guests add to the contents. There are about 14,000 known books in various museum and private collections.

One recent contemporary such book was put together by one hundred and fifty Los Angeles graffiti artists. It was sponsored by The Getty Research Institute and there was a webinar in May, 2021, where David Brafman, Associate Rare Book Curator at The Getty Research Institute interviewed five of the artists. Fascinating.

About five or so years ago, David contacted several artists and had them meet him at The Getty where he showed them a Getty-owned Album Amicorum. The artists were intrigued and agreed that in many ways this is what they did. They put on an exhibition in El Segundo at EsMOA. Each artist was given a space and could paint what they liked. They started on the walls and as they waited for a ladder, they started to paint the floors. By the time they had finished, they had also painted the ceiling. It was an amazing experience to walk in and be encompassed by the art.

The artists are employed as graphic designers and in other artistic positions and are all fine artists. The book, L.A. Graffiti Black Book, by David Brafman, is available at The Getty Book Shop and is quite an eye opener. There are several well-known women graffiti artists. Graffiti artists must not be confused with taggers.

So I suggest that BAGSC members get together and create our own Album Amicorum and sometime perhaps we can have an exhibition of our Friendship Boo