November 4, 2010

Print? Dead?

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This weekend, November 4-7, New York City hosts two significant celebrations of printed book culture: The fifth annual NY Art Book Fair, presented by Printed Matter at MoMA PS1, and the thirteenth annual Editions|Artists’ Book Fair. As Holland Cotter wrote of last years’ Art Book Fair in a story the New York Times, “You’ll find thousands of new books–smart, weird, engrossing, beautiful–that will never be Kindle-compatible.”

Both fairs are growing. The not-for-profit NY Art Book Fair has grown from 70 exhibitors and 11 countries in 2006, to 205 exhibitors and 22 countries in 2009, according to one report.

Meanwhile, with more than sixty exhibitors representing an international roster of hundreds of artists the Editions|Artists’ Book Fair “has grown in size and stature to become the premier showcase for contemporary publishers and dealers, presenting the latest and greatest in prints, multiples and artists’ books,” according to a press release.

Neither traffics in print nostalgia. Printed Matter president, artist, author, publisher, and healer AA Bronson says in an interview that “The norm at book fairs is that everyone’s over fifty, when you go to a book fair and look around, it’s all old people. When you come to the NY Art Book Fair, you see a huge population of young people. I think that bodes very well for the publishing and art worlds in general.”

Last year, blogging for Publishers Weekly, Cursor publisher Richard Nash proposed that Book Expo America (publishing’s premiere trade show), where attendance was down 14%, open its doors to the public.

These two fairs have been free and open to the public since inception. That undoubtedly accounts for much of their dynamism and the youth vote.

The fair also coincides with The Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference — according to another release, a dynamic, two-day event focused on emerging practices and debates within art-book culture.

This year’s sessions address a wide array of subjects, including: experimental libraries, the so-called zine renaissance, fusion of art and design in typography, contemporary criticism, and new pedagogical approaches to the ever-expanding field of artists’ books. The first day of the conference ends with our keynote, a conversation on books between Richard Hell, Josh Smith and Christopher Wool.

BECAUSE THE NY ART BOOK FAIR is a nonprofit fair, our idea from the beginning was to be as inclusive as possible, says Bronson in another interview. We wanted to include everything from Taschen to the independent, poverty-stricken artist. We gave out a lot of free stands to people who couldn’t afford them, and charged as little as possible. This year (2009), there are quite a number of antiquarian or vintage book sellers; there are DAP and RAM, both major art distributors; there are a number of small publishers from all over the world; there are quite a few alternative institutions that have publishing programs; smaller nonprofit spaces; and also independent artists and artist groups–people like Red 76 from Portland, for example. If we could find another category that wasn’t being represented, we’d make every effort to jam it in.”

As Cotter wrote in the Times, what makes this fair enticing is the chance it affords to see things seldom encountered elsewhere.

Dates, Directions, press releases, and participants in exhibitions, lectures, performances, and screenings:

NY Art Book Fair
MoMA PS1
22-25 Jackson Ave at the intersection of 46th Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101 (map)
Thursday, November 4, 2010, PREVIEW, 6pm – 9pm
Friday / Saturday, November 5-6, 2010, 11am – 7pm
Sunday, November 7, 2010, 11am – 5pm

The 2010 Editions|Artists’ Book Fair
Former Dia/Former X Initiative
548 West 22nd Street, Between 10th & 11th Avenue (map)
Friday / Saturday, November 5-6, 2010, 11am – 7pm
Sunday, November 7, 2010, 11am – 4pm

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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