What is an art lending library?

My art bucket list What is an art lending library
Joe Brainard (1942-1994), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

What is an art lending library? Is it a special place with books about art? Very fancy ones? Not exactly. An Art Lending Library (or Artothèque in French) works just like a library. Instead of going to borrow books, you borrow artworks for a certain amount of time.

How does it work?

Just like in any library you have a subscription, per year. When you are registered you can rent out artworks for your place. So you can enjoy artworks everyday in your house/apartment even if you would not have the budget to buy it!

Let me give you two examples, one in France and one in the USA:

The Artothèque of Brest, located in Brittany in France has a collection of 1100 available for the audience to choose from. It was created in 1983 by the city of Brest with the Ministry of Culture. You can also display art at work, in your office, or in your break room so you can enjoy it with coworkers. It could be a fun team-building experience by the way. You could meet up once a month to go together to an artothèque and make a selection.

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library, located in the USA, it was created in 2013 and has a collection of over 100 contemporary artworks. The service is free (awesome initiative) and based on trust. What is also good is that you can buy the artwork afterwards if you are interested (if the work is available for sale). It is another way to get in touch with the artist and get to know their work.

How much does it cost? It must be crazy expensive?

Not that much really. It depends on where you go. The one I mentioned in the USA is free but others in the same country aren’t. There are ones run by city councils or non-profits and there are also private ones. In Brest since it is run by the city it costs 17€ per year (about $20) and you rent each artworks for a duration of 2 months. There are also special costs for teachers and schools. You can also register if you are not living in the city! Each art lending library is different, the best way to know if you can use the services of the one in your area is to go check it out!

What if I damage it?

Hang on, before letting you rent it out they check everything with you. In France they check that your place is covered by insurance. You have to be over 18, if you aren’t, try to go with your folks, might also be a fun activity for the whole family! They provide the box in which the artwork is stored for the transportation. And of course they give you plenty of recommendations on how to show your artwork in your house so it won’t be damaged. I might do an article about this… “How to not destroy art you bought?”

If you are living in Canada, you can check out one in Montréal. They have a collection of 3000 artworks, so many to choose from!

In France on this matter we are lucky and have over 40 artothèques on the territory. They even created a map of them and a federation. You can learn more about them here.

Now you are all set! Go check if something like this exist in your city/country/region. If not it might be a good idea to start one!


Would you rent out art?

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  1. Pingback: What is an art center? | My art bucket list

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