The ÓPLA Archive, a special fund of the Civic Library of Merano, researches, collects and catalogues books made by artists for children. These books are special and often very different from traditional picture books. They can be considered true works of art, an expression of extreme creative freedom, in which the artist often designs the book in absolute autonomy: from the choice of materials to be used, to the format, the layout, the binding, the printing technique.
THE ÓPLA ARCHIVE
The ÓPLA Archive was born in 1997, in collaboration with Edizioni Corraini of Mantua. The particular relationship between artists and children’s books has encouraged us to research, collect and document what has been produced in this field, bringing it together in a single archive, so that it can be studied, used and brought back into play.
The books collected by ÓPLA are very often unusual and original. They are dedicated to children or use a language or a type of image that is related to their world. Alongside published artists’ books that are still available on the market, there are also works that are not accessible, kept in museums or private collections, and rare editions that are no longer in print. The Archive’s patrimony consists of over 800 titles.
There are more than 300 artists whose books are present in ÓPLA, both Italian and foreign, contemporary or from the last century, in some cases very famous (e.g. Mirò, Andy Warhol, Carla Accardi, Keith Haring, John Lennon, Otto Dix, Lissitzky, Bruno Munari, Nikki de Saint Phalle, etc.) in other cases less known, but all united by the fact that they have explored, at least once in their artistic career, the world of childhood.
THE 1,2,3…ÓPLA WORKSHOPS
ÓPLA’s workshops are born with the aim of spreading the archive’s project and establishing a direct contact between art and children. Over the years, about 200 workshops with over 70 different artists have been organised, involving hundreds of students from all schools in the city of Merano, as well as dozens of teachers. The workshops with the artists constitute an experience of high pedagogical value that has a strong impact on the creativity of children.
The heritage of the ÓPLA Archive has been the subject of several exhibitions, both in Italy and abroad. Among the most important are worth mentioning:
2007: Children’s corner, Kunst Meran Merano Arte
2008: Itabashi Art Museum, Tokyo
2009: Petite édition – Jeune illustration, Le Salon du Livre de Saint-Priest, Lyon
2010: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
2012: Casina Raffaello, Rome
2014: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna
2017: ÓPLA 2.0, 20 years of artists’ books for children, Palais Mamming, Merano
2018: Hyundai Museum of Kids’ Books & Art – MOKA, Seoul
In 2014, the ÓPLA Archive organised the conference “Libraries and children’s artist’s book” in Merano. In the various conferences, round tables, presentations and workshops focused on the artist’s book for children, some realities of great international relevance were involved, such as the International Youth Library in Munich, the Department of Marne and the Edizioni Les Trois Ourses in Paris, and national ones such as the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna.
Children’s corner: catalog of the homonymous exhibition held at Merano Arte for the 10th anniversary of the Archive;
Libraries and children’s artist’s book: proceedings of the Conference on Artists’ Books for Children organised by the Archive in 2014;
ÓPLA 2.0: catalog of the homonymous exhibition held at Palais Mamming for the 20th anniversary of the Archive;
In 2005 ÓPLA was awarded the Andersen Prize, in the section “Protagonists of the promotion of reading 2005”, with the following motivation: “For the careful and valuable project of promoting the work of artists dedicated to children; for having created a tool that collects and makes accessible not only to a professional public a cultural heritage of difficult availability, also thanks to the activity of workshops now rooted in the city.”
Since 2015 Merano has been the protagonist of a series of illustrated books, published by Corraini Edizioni. The project draws inspiration from the ÓPLA Archive and aims to enhance the extraordinary natural and cultural heritage of the area.
ÓPLA is a place for collecting and soon for connecting too. ÓPLab is the name of a new space that will open its doors in Merano. A rich programme of shows, events and workshops together with a bookshop and a café will set the stage for the enactment of our desire: to delve into and deliver the contents and curiosities of our artist’s books archive.
Publisher and scientific advisor of the ÓPLA Archive
Director of the Italian section of the Civic Library of Merano
Director of the German section of the Civic Library of Merano