The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla was established in 1899 and is one of the oldest cultural institutions in San Diego. The library is one of only sixteen remaining membership libraries in the United States, which means it is supported through its members, not with government funding, and changed from a general library to a specialized library in art and music, and has become a cultural institution over the last twenty years. We present seventy-plus concerts a year and numerous changing exhibitions with local artists, as well as book artists. We support an art school and present lectures on art and music topics. The library specializes in materials on art and music only, including art books, art and music magazines, sheet music and audio and video material. The collection of artists’ books, which was established in 1991, has become one of the most important collections in the Athenaeum’s holdings and is a driving force in the library’s development. The collection was named the Athenaeum’s Erika and Fred Torri Artists’ Books Collection in 2005.

Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery
Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery,
New Acquisition”
©La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

The mission of the artists’ books collection was established with a focus on regional artists and presses and artists who emphasized art and/or music in their work and was later augmented to also include works by artists known for their artwork other than books and most of them conceptual in nature. This part of the collection is not duplicated in other regional collections in close proximity and has helped the Athenaeum collection to become one of the most prestigious in the Southern California area.

Anonymous: “Athenaeum Exterior 2006
Anonymous: “Athenaeum Exterior 2006.”
©La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

Since its founding in 1991 the collection has grown to include more than 2,000 items, which include the following types of genre:

•    Artists books
•    Multiples and book objects
•    File folders with ephemera such as posters, letters and invitations
•    Sound art on LPs and CDs
•    Multimedia editions on videos and DVDs
•    Secondary literature and documentation material
•    Catalogs of artists’ books exhibitions

All material with the exception of the file folders are catalogued and housed in a climate and humidity-controlled vault. Researchers and other visitors to the library can make an appointment to view items from the collection at the library. More than 500 artists are represented.

Rittermann, Philipp Scholz:  “Athenaeum North Reading Room.”
Rittermann, Philipp Scholz:
“Athenaeum North Reading Room.”
©La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

The works in the artists’ books collection have increased through educated acquisitions and donations and include many complete or almost complete collections of artist’s books by one specific artist. Artists falling into this category include the following: Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Allan Kaprow, Ida Applebroog, Allen Ruppersberg, Sol LeWitt, Christian Boltanski, Richard Long, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Lawrence Weiner, Bruce Nauman, Fischli-Weiss, Ian Hamilton Finlay, as well as Olafur Eliasson, Hanne Darboven, Marcel Broodthaers and Terry Allen. Every effort is being made to complete the holdings by all artists, and at the same time new artists are being identified and added to the collection. Mungo Thomson, Roni Horn and Marshall Weber fall in that category.

Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery Patrons.”
Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery Patrons.”
©La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

Many events surround this collection. Ongoing changing exhibitions are presented in the display cases of the Athenaeum’s North Reading Room and show all works from the collection by one artist or from one subject area. Every other year a national juried show of artists’ books is offered and an exhibition on “Recent Acquisitions” in artists’ books is presented regularly. Both of these exhibitions are presented in the Main Gallery and are free to all visitors. In addition, numerous free lectures on artists’ books are offered during the year, and the Athenaeum has received several grants to foster and document the collection. A first pamphlet on the complete collection of Ed Ruscha’s books is being prepared at the moment. A second book on Allen Ruppersberg’s books is planned.

The collection can be accessed through the Athenaeum website at
All material can be viewed upon request. The Athenaeum is open five days a week and is free of charge.

Erika Torri
Joan & Irwin Jacobs Executive Director

Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery Book Arts Exhibit.”
Anonymous: “Athenaeum Main Gallery Book Arts Exhibit.”
©La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

Please contact the librarian at:
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library   
1008 Wall Street                                       
La Jolla, Ca. 92037                                 
858 454-5872; 858 454-5835 fax


Tu, Th, Fr, Sat    10:00 – 5:30 PM
Wed                  10:00 – 8:30 PM                                 
Closed Mondays, Sundays and holidays

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All photographs of the Athenaeum and works of art provided were taken by members of staff or affiliates of the La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.  Every attempt has been made to identify the photographers whose images have been provided. All images and logos, 6 files total, have been cleared for use on the Artists’ Pub website.