In 1954, the French writer, politician, and publisher Andre Malraux posed at home for a photographer from the magazine Paris Match, surrounded by pages from his forthcoming book, Le musee imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale. The enchanting metaphor of the musee imaginaire (imaginary museum) was built upon that illustrated art book, and Malraux was one of its greatest champions. Drawing on variety of contemporary publications, he adopted images and responded to ideas. Indeed, Malraux's book on the floor is a variation of photographer Andre Vigneau's spectacular Encyclopedie photographique de l'art, published in five volumes from 1935 on-years before Malraux would enter this business. Both authors were engaged in juxtaposing artworks via photographs and publishing these photographs by the hundreds, but Malraux was the better sloganeer.
Grasskamp shows how the illustrated art book catalysed the practice of comparing works of art on a global scale. He retraces the metaphor to earlier reproduction practices and highlights its ubiquity in contemporary art, ending with an homage to the other pioneer of the "museum without walls," the unjustly forgotten Andre Vigneau.