Looking is a game. Tana Hoban's picture books

April 30 > September 4, 2022

Sala Fontana | admission free

curated by Giulia Giazzoli and Élisabeth Lortic in conjunction with the Mutty and CNAP / Centre national des arts plastiques


Exhibition-cum-workshop of photographs and picture books for children from the archives of publishers Les Trois Ourses, devised by Mutty, exhibition designed by Paolo Cremonesi. Organised by the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo and promoted by Roma Capitale –  Department for Cultural Affairs.

«My books are about everyday things that are so ordinary that one tends to overlook them (…) I try to rediscover these things and share them with children. But there is more to each picture than a first look reveals. I always try to include something new, something to reach for».

Tana Hoban


Coming soon to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, the most exhaustive monographic exhibition in Italy on the genius of Tana Hoban, an American artist famous throughout the world for producing over 50 picture books of photographs for children in the course of her life. She is considered the pioneer of a genre in which interest is rapidly growing today in connection with the visual education of younger audiences. This event, staged 15 years after her death, is a tribute to the first artist ever to produce such a vast output of picture books of photographs for children with their a uniquely immediate style.  

The exhibition, curated by Giulia Giazzoli and Élisabeth Lortic, has been devised by the Libreria Mutty in Castiglione delle Stiviere in conjunction with the CNAP / Centre national des arts plastiques based in Paris. It includes a selection of the artist’s photographs and her entire output of books produced between 1970 and 2007 from the archive of publishers Les Trois Ourses, held by the CNAP and a number of images from the archive of the de Grummond Collection (University of Southern Mississippi).

The Rome edition of the exhibition has been expressly redesigned and remodulated to interact with the spaces on the Palazzo delle Esposizioni’s Lower Ground Floor. An atmospheric and engaging layout with a merry-go-round of black cut-out shapes on the walls inspired by the artist’s cardboard books for the very young transforms the space into a carousel of silhouettes. On the floor, at child height, self-supporting panels host over thirty photographs arranged by affinity of form and colour to offer a dynamic and very powerful tour for audiences of all ages. Also on display are the games and objects portrayed in her book Of Colors and Things published in 1989, which serve as inspiration for the workshop section in which children and adults alike can actively create a composition of objects to exercise their powers of observation and to change their viewpoint on seemingly humdrum everyday items.

The Atelier cube will be transformed into a screening room projecting the shorts on animals that Tana Hoban shot between 1980 and 1987.

The exhibition includes a full programme of activities for schools, families, teachers and professionals from the worlds of art and of visual education.

Tana Hoban – An artist, photografer and film maker, Tana Hoban was born to parents of Russian origin in Philadelphia, USA in 1917. She graduated from the Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. Her photographs belong to the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York and one of them was displayed in the celebrated exhibition entitled “The Family of Man” curated by Edward Steichen in 1955. She initially embarked on a career as an advertising photographer before devoting her energies to photography for children. She won major awards for her work and, starting in the 1970s, she produced over fifty picture books with photographs for young and very young children with the aim of developing their powers of observation and acute perception and of focusing their gaze on the minor events in our daily lives. She moved to Paris with her second husband, the journalist John G. Morris, in 1983. She died in Louveciennes in 2006.


Looking is a game. Tana Hoban's picture books
Looking is a game. Tana Hoban's picture books