Video: Behind Tai Snaith’s “Open Book” artwork in the Russell Street Welcome Zone

A large-scale public artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith was today unveiled inside the first of the new spaces officially opened as part of State Library Victoria’s $88.1 million redevelopment project.

Spanning a 29×5 metre wall and titled ‘Open Book’, it is the largest work the Melbourne artist has created to date and one of her most personal.

It features a series of photographs of intricate ‘assemblages’ using found or made objects including ceramic pieces handmade by the artist, dried flowers and seeds, and family heirlooms, placed atop 15 open books from the Library’s collection.

Ms Snaith says the work – featuring personal artefacts such as her grandmother’s Bakelite bingo counters and other items collected in her travels – explores both the hereditary nature of collecting, a practice that spans generations in her family, and her lifelong love of books.

“Since I was a young girl, books have underpinned my artistic practice and provided a constant and endless source of inspiration,” Ms Snaith said.

“Through this work, I wanted to convey the magic of the act of opening a book and I hope to communicate what it is to be inspired in a library. Everyone needs books at some point in their lives and anyone can go into a library. That egalitarianism, the fact that you can walk into a library and no one will question why you’re there, is so important.”

Ms Snaith’s work was selected from 77 submissions from artists, illustrators and designers across the country in response to the Library’s call out for work inspired by its collection of books relating to Victoria’s flora, fauna and natural history.

State Library Victoria CEO Kate Torney said Ms Snaith’s work conveyed the way books and, in particular, the Library’s collections are a rich source of inspiration for many people in many different ways.
“This stunning work will capture the imaginations of the thousands of visitors who walk through the Library’s doors each day, sparking a sense of wonder and curiosity, just as our beautiful spaces and collections have done for the past 162 years,” Ms Torney said.

The artwork was unveiled at today’s official opening of the Library’s new spaces, which include the Russell Street Welcome Zone – a vibrant collaborative space that is home to a new cafe, Guild, and an expanded Readings bookshop – heritage events space the Isabella Fraser Room, and two reading rooms. The spaces are accessed by the reopened Russell Street entrance and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

The entrances on La Trobe and Russell Streets will be the Library’s main entry points while the Swanston Street entrance and ground floor close temporarily for construction, reopening in spring 2019.


About Tai Snaith: Tai Snaith is a Melbourne artist, curator and writer. She has written and illustrated four picture books and in 2017 launched a podcast ‘A World of One’s Own’, hosted by ACCA, with the new season in production (funded by Australia Council). Tai has exhibited widely in both artist-run and commercial spaces since graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2002. She was awarded the Australia Council for the Arts Tokyo studio residency and is the recipient of numerous state and federal project grants. Tai has artwork in the NGA works on paper collection, Artbank, Banyule City art collection and numerous private collections.