A bookshelf with hundreds of books that you cannot touch

A floor-to-ceiling shelf holding hundreds of books. Makes a beautiful backdrop. But you can’t read the books. You can’t even touch them. It’s a work of art. Oooook. I need to investigate this artwork further.

Gregg Bordowitz "I Wanna Be Well" at Art Institute of Chicago

During lunch I breezed through the Art Institute of Chicago. An unexpected visit on my part, because the nearby McDonalds was too busy, so instead I went to the Art Institute of Chicago for a quick visit to see what was up.

The last exhibit I saw was “Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well“.

At the end of the exhibit stands this wondrous wall of books. On the floor spelled the words “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH” with a security guard standing right there.


No touching the books? At the end of exhibits there are often catalog books for people to browse through. It’s sort of standard custom in art museums.

This collection of books at the end of the exhibit are prohibited reading. Just look at the shelf. Ponder the curated titles of the books. Simply browse without reading.

Artwork reflective of social media

This bookshelf where you cannot read the books reminds me a lot of Twitter. Most often people tweet links to articles without even reading the article. Just the headline appears in the tweet. Rather like this bookshelf. You can read the titles of the books, but not the content of the books. This shelf is like a curated collection of thoughts. Just like Twitter is often a curated collection of articles.

To further add to how much this shelf is like today’s social media, many people were photographing this bookshelf. Moreso than any other artwork in the museum during my quick walk-through. People love the look of this shelf. Let’s post this visual on Instagram! I even did that too, so I’m guilty of that. But it’s so enticing!

Kudos to this artist for instigating good thoughts—especially on a viewer like me that spent a brief moment of time with the work.

A way to read these books

I walk away rather empty, because I can’t read any of the books. Makes me want to make an index of all these books and find the books in this collection that are available in the public domain. That way, people can actually read the books on this shelf.

I will be visiting this artwork again. And for that, this artwork can be considered successful—(whatever that means for an artwork to be “successful”.)

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Linus Van Pelt
Linus Van Pelt
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Maldre

That would make this artwork more interactive.

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