Lygia Pape Book of Creation 1959–60

  • MoMA, Floor 3, 3 East The Robert B. Menschel Galleries

Book of Creation materializes real space,” Pape explained, because its colorful pages can be unfolded into three-dimensional abstract shapes. These “pop-up” sculptural forms use similar procedures of cutting and folding as other works in this room and the next. They also narrate the genesis of the world. Originally, viewers were meant to manipulate the work’s pages in different ways; thus “the book is revealed to each person as novel and unique,” Pape claimed, making its story open to diverse interpretations.

Gallery label from Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift, October 21, 2019–March 14, 2020
Additional text

Book of Creation, one of three books Pape produced between 1959 and 1962, is considered a prime example of early Neo–Concrete art. Consisting of fifteen unbound cardboard "pages," the book tells the story of the creation of the world through an elaborate, abstract composition composed of geometric forms. The book does not retell a specific creation myth, but invites each viewer to create his or her own narrative by "reading" and interpreting each page. Starting with the recession of water and continuing through the development of agriculture, fire, hunting, time, navigation, the solar system, and light, Pape reinforces an open reading with various adaptations and configurations. She said, "Through each person's experiences there is a process of open structure through which each structure can generate its own meaning."

Gallery label from New Perspectives in Latin American Art, 1930–2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions, November 21, 2007–February 25, 2008.
Artist's book with sixteen unbound pages, some with goauche on board, paper, and string
Each: 12 x 12" (30.5 x 30.5 cm)
Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Object number
© 2020 Projeto Lygia Pape
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

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1996, Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo, acquired from the artist.
1996 - 2001, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York and Caracas, purchased through Galeria Camargo Vilaça.
2001, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired as partial and promised gift from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.

Exhibition history

Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, São Paulo, "Paralelos. Arte brasileira da segunda metade do século XX em contexto", March 21 - June 16, 2002 and tour:
Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, July 11 - September 22, 2002

El Museo del Barrio, New York, "MoMA at El Museo: Latin American and Caribbean Art from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art", March 4 - July 25, 2004

Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, "Cruce de Miradas Tradiciones Plásticas de América Latina en la colección CPPC", August 2 - October 22, 2006

Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, "The Geometry of Hope: Latin American Geometrical Abstraction from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection", February 17 - April 5, 2007

MoMA Exh. #2022: "New Perspectives in Latin American Art, 1930 - 2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions," November 21, 2007 - February 25, 2008

MoMA Exh. #2072: "Paper: Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded," Paul J. Sachs Prints and Illustrated Books Galleries, March 11 - June 23, 2009

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, "La Invención concreta. Collección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros", January 22 - September 16, 2013.

The Met Breuer, New York, "Lygia Pape", March 21 - June 18, 2017

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, "Latin American Concrete and Neo Concrete Art", February 24 - May 13, 2018

MoMA Exh. #2424, "Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction―The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift", 3rd Floor, East Gallery, [The Robert B. Menschel Galleries], October 21, 2019 -


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