Souvenir books are just that – souvenirs of a collection, usually bought as reminders of things seen and enjoyed. They also serve as introductions to a collection or to whet the appetite for a proposed visit. For some purchasers, they are introductions to an aspect of art that has fascinated them during a museum visit, or to collections not always on display. To succeed, souvenir books must be visually glamorous and enticing, and written in an accessible yet scholarly style.
The National Gallery of Victoria’s eight new souvenir books devoted to works from the international collections are exemplary and could serve as models to most museums. They represent a high point in the design of museum publications in Australia and celebrate the pride that the NGV has in its collections. I hope that we might soon see the Australian collections similarly celebrated.
Visually seductive, these books are illustrated with beautiful photographs of individual works and ravishing details. While, in most instances, the works selected for inclusion are among the highlights of each collection, a sufficient number of unusual and unexpected works are reproduced, some for the first time in a popular publication, to make the books attractive to those familiar with the collections.