Introduction to a collection: Nigel Greenwood

Continuing our guest blogs, Normana Wight introduces the Nigel Greenwood collection. Normana is a respected printmaker who taught for many years at the University of Southern Queensland. Her work is represented by several artists’ books in the Australian Library of Art. She has worked as a volunteer with the Library for several years, particularly writing descriptions of the books in the collection of English commercial gallery owner Nigel Greenwood (1941 - 2004):
Why write a blog about a dead British commercial gallery owner?
Answer: idealism, ideas, and opportunity.

After Greenwood’s death, his collection of artists’ books was offered for sale.
State Library of Queensland bought the collection, which is a testament to his enthusiasm for what became known as Conceptual art; also known as Idea Art.


The collection has been catalogued and described, and is available to those enthusiasts and art students who already admire the Conceptual in Art; or wish to study it to further understand this major art trend of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Greenwood was born in Devon in 1941. After leaving school he lived briefly in Rome. On his return he studied at the Courtauld Institute with Anthony Blunt and John Golding, the historian of Cubism.

By 1969 Greenwood was working independently, seeking, according to The Guardian obituary of April 24, 2004, “less conventional spaces in which to show artists whose work was not being taken up by West End galleries”
For example, he showed the first British presentation of Gilbert & George’s ‘living sculpture’ “Underneath the Arches”, which was also shown in Australia in 1973 by Kaldor Public Art Projects in both Melbourne and Sydney. The catalogue is available in the Australian Library of Art.

He was committed to showing the work of young unknown artists, and took a leaf out of  American artist Ed Ruscha’s book, by publishing artists’ books in editions of 500 or 1000, rather than catalogues, thus enabling gallery visitors who could not afford a work of art, to leave with an ‘original’ that cost peanuts.

His gallery, established near Sloane Street in London held a noteworthy exhibition called ‘The Book as Artwork” in 1972.
Several of the subsequent exhibitions were primarily to launch a publication, such as those by Gilbert & George, and work promoted by the gallery, for example by Robert Barry, John Stezaker and David Tremlett.
Other books in this collection are by Gerd Winner, Richard Kostelanetz, Ed Ruscha and Sol Lewitt (including his Australian visits in 1977 - Wall Drawings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales - and 1998 - Wall Pieces at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney), as well as artists from Germany, Italy, France, Canada, and various countries in South America.

There are 214 artists’ books altogether in the Nigel Greenwood collection in the Australian Library of Art.

If you are a student of Conceptualism, or planning to do research into aspects of conceptualism in the art of 1970’s and 1980’s, it is possible to arrange access to this diverse collection. Ask us





We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Be the first to write a comment