Marco Birnholz: A Life in Bookplates
This multimedia presentation will look at Marco Birnholz and his ex libris collection. Marco encountered an ex libris as a young student and was transfixed, “gripped by my collector’s passion.” He commissioned his first ex libris in 1913, and his 264th in 1964. As a prisoner of war in WWI, Marco commissioned ex libris from fellow prisoners. After escaping, Marco returned to Vienna where he built a life as a pharmacist and family man, and, as he noted in his diary “all money was used on books and ex libris”. He was active in the Austrian ex libris society. His life changed when Hitler marched into Austria in 1938. His granddaughter Melissa Hacker grew up in New York City surrounded by custom made boxes holding Marco’s collection, and her mother’s stories of old master ex libris that had been stolen. The boxes, and Marco’s diaries, shadowed in loss and mystery, were never opened. Until now. Melissa is making a film and book, and will talk about what she has learned and share images of ex libris and excerpts from the works in progress.
Melissa Hacker inherited an interest in book culture from both sides of her family; her mother’s father, Marco Birnholz, was a collector of Ex Libris in early 20th century Vienna, Austria, and her father founded Hacker Art Books, a bookshop in New York City. Melissa is an award winning film and video maker who made her directing debut with the documentary My Knees Were Jumping; Remembering The Kindertransports, which was short-listed for Academy Award nomination, seen in film festivals, museums, on television, and in universities worldwide. Melissa’s video Venus was featured in the group exhibition “Objects of Devotion and Desire: Medieval Relic to Contemporary Art,” and received special accolades in the New York Times review of the show. Her three channel video Letters Home screened at the New York, Washington DC, and Toronto Jewish Film Festivals. Honors received for her current work in progress, Ex Libris, A Life in Bookplates, an animated documentary film and book on her grandfather’s life and bookplate collection include a Fulbright Artist-in-Residence award in Vienna and artist residencies at Yaddo, VCCA, Playa, Willapa Bay AIR, Escape to Create, Saltonstall, the Millay Colony, Digital Arts Studios Belfast NI, and a 2022 LABA artist fellowship.
Melissa is also a wandering professor, at New York University Film School in New York and Havana, Cuba. She teaches at Hunter College, City College, Marymount Manhattan, and most recently Yangon Film School in Myanmar.
The lecture is free and part of our celebration of the Ex Libris exhibit and reception. Please RSVP for the reception and lecture.