Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book
Sternberg Press, 2020

Book design: Irma Boom. Cover image: John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017, still (detail) © Smoking Dog Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Video: Jaime Gorospe

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book (Sternberg Press, 2020) is a vivid documentation of TBA21’s commissioning practice and the ethos of the foundation, which involves working directly with artists on some of the most urgent topics of our time. This volume is an anthology of new texts, visual material, and research on TBA21’s commissions, woven together with explorations of the processes and relationships that enabled them. The publication was inspired by the labor, dialogue, and collaboration it took to produce these works over the past two decades, and what it means to be their guardian. The book’s innovative design was conceived by the world’s foremost book designer, Irma Boom. A selection of smell molecules from trees, forests, and earth are embedded into print sheets made of robust natural fibers, which are covering and bookending the publication. The smell was recorded, replicated, and recombined by artist Sissel Tolaas as a special commission for the book. Honoring TBA21’s commitment to the environment, the book is made from sustainable materials, using 100 percent recycled paper.

In over 1,300 pages, The Commissions Book engages in depth with more than 100 works of art. The publication organizes and weaves together sequences of potential narratives and interrogations, along with close examinations of different works of art and an archive of images. The stories embedded in these works, as well as in the foundation’s work, and that of TBA21–Academy, an itinerant site of transdisciplinary research and cultural production engaging with the oceans, are stories of making new connections across disciplines, geographies, and different forms of expertise. Committed to the sensibilities of artists-as-researchers, TBA21 has sided with artists in imagining new ways of knowing and intervening in the societies we live in and deploying new ways of encountering the world around us. The foundation’s work presents an attempt at reimagining what it means to “work together” as artists, commissioners, and public, and The Commissions Book seeks to rearticulate this praxis of intervention and reimagination as it evolved over two decades.

The Commissions Book brings together visual and written material from TBA21’s commissioning practice and vast history of exhibitions and programs, including artists and architects such as David Adjaye, John Akomfrah, Olafur Eliasson, Amar Kanwar, Walid Raad, Jana Winderen, and—most recently—Joan Jonas. The book also presents new works and commissions by Cecilia Bengolea, Claudia Comte, SUPERFLEX, and Territorial Agency, among many others. It also includes contributions by curator Natasha Ginwala and transdisciplinary feminist thinkers Astrida Neimanis and Eva Hayward, whose essays transcend individual artistic positions and ask questions that lie at the core of TBA21’s program, interrogating institutional boundaries and connecting with the complexities and urgencies of the age of the Anthropocene. 

The Commissions Book is available for sale at Sternberg Press, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza’s shop and other selected bookstores. It is part of a broader series of activities organized by TBA21, which share the foundation’s values and spirit. The book launch is related to the presentation of st_age, a collaborative digital program initiated by TBA21 to support artists and reflect on how to mitigate cultural loss during the Covid-19 crisis. 

The Commissions Book includes TBA21 and TBA21–Academy commissions as well as works from the TBA21 Collection by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, David Adjaye, Nabil Ahmed, Doug Aitken, Atif Akin, John Akomfrah, Nevin Aladağ, Allora & Calzadilla, Laura Anderson Barbata, Jonathas de Andrade, Kutluğ  Ataman, Neïl Beloufa, Cecilia Bengolea, John Bock, Monica Bonvicini, Candice Breitz, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Julian Charrière, Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkáčová, Tyler Coburn, Phil Collins, Claudia Comte, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Emanuel Danesch and David Rych, Dark Morph, Jeremy Deller, Olafur Eliasson, Noa Eshkol, Omer Fast, Mario García Torres, Gelitin, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Dan Graham, Ariel Guzik, Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Thomas Nordanstad, Florian Hecker, Nikolaus Hirsch / Michel Müller and Cybermohalla Ensemble, Carsten Höller, Marine Hugonnier, Pierre Huyghe, inhabitants, Sanja Iveković, Rashid Johnson, Joan Jonas, Brad Kahlhamer, Amar Kanwar, Ragnar Kjartansson, Armin Linke, Sharon Lockhart, Los Carpinteros, Sarah Lucas, Ursula Mayer, Jonathan Meese, Eduardo Navarro, Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin, Rivane Neuenschwander, Carsten Nicolai, Olaf Nicolai, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Mathias Poledna, Walid Raad, Raqs Media Collective, Lisa Rave, Matthew Ritchie with Aranda\Lasch and Arup AGU, Tomás Saraceno, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, Hans Schabus, Christoph Schlingensief, Allan Sekula, Charles Stankievech, Simon Starling, SUPERFLEX, Territorial Agency, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Sissel Tolaas, Suzanne Treister, Janaina Tschäpe with David Gruber, Jana Winderen, Susanne M. Winterling, Cerith Wyn Evans, Želimir Žilnik.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary:
The Commissions Book
Edited by Daniela Zyman and Eva Ebersberger
Softcover, 1,336 pages
ISBN-10: 3956795555
ISBN-13: 978-3956795558
21 x 15 cm
$35.95 / €29.00 / $47.95 CAN.
Irma Boom
Atif Akin, Joan Anim-Addo, Magalí Arriola, Rakhee Balaram, Erika Balsom, Ute Meta Bauer, Bettina Brunner, D. Graham Burnett, Patrick Charpenel, Damian Christinger, Sebastian Cichocki, CM Live (Neelofar, Suraj Rai, and Shamsher Ali), Gabrielle Cram, Heather Davis, Angela Dimitrakaki, Georges B.J. Dreyfus, Eva Ebersberger, Charles Esche, Beatrice Forchini, Anselm Franke, Natasha Ginwala, David Gruber, Carles Guerra, Soledad Gutiérrez, Nav Haq, Eva Hayward, Stefan Helmreich, Stefanie Hessler, Václav Janoščík, Caroline A. Jones, Ruba Katrib, Lutz Koepnick, Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta, Luca Lo Pinto, Sarat Maharaj, Chus Martínez, Margarida Mendes, Suzana Milevska, Vanessa Joan Müller, Heike Munder, Henning Nass, Sara Nadal-Melsió, Astrida Neimanis, Ingo Niermann, Sandra Noeth, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Boris Ondreička, Annie Paul, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Ignas Petronis, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Filipa Ramos, Raqs Media Collective, Markus Reymann, Kathrin Rhomberg, Dan Richards, Ridykeulous (Nicole Eisenman + A.L. Steiner), Ralph Rugoff, Thibaut de Ruyter, Nadim Samman, Mirjam Schaub, Andreas Schlaegel, Cory Scozzari, Tsering Shakya, Chris Sharp, Jasper Sharp, Frederike Sperling, Andreas Spiegl, Charles Stankievech, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Emiliano Valdés, Nicola Vassell, Franziska Sophie Wildförster, Eva Wilson, Slavoj Žižek, Daniela Zyman, Oona Zyman.