The eighth annual NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS 1


(Andrea’s visit to the NY Art Book Fair unearths some familiar publishing names and artists amidst the huge crush of material filling PS1 inside and out.–the artblog editors)

This was the first time I’d attended the NY Art Book Fair , organized by Printed Matter and held at MoMA PS1 on Sept. 20-22, and I was entirely unprepared for its extent. The Fair filled not only all of the building’s galleries, but its entire courtyard and ancillary outdoors spaces as well. I approached it much like an art fair, alotting myself a fixed amount of time (never enough) and seeing whatever I could within that period. Given the number of items on display, and the fact that visitors can pick up and flip through most of it, this was considerably more taxing than an art fair. I gave priority to current work produced by artists, rather than the collectibles, art titles from mainstream publishers, and livres delux. The fair was a great way to take the pulse of the non-commercial art scene in many cities, nationally and internationally, and to network.

International flavor of the Art Book Fair

View of the fair, photo courtesy the NY Art Book Fair
View of the fair, photo courtesy the NY Art Book Fair
View of the fair, photo courtesy Fair
View of the fair, photo courtesy Fair

It was surprisingly international, although you had to ask where each exhibitor was from, since the official designation had only the name of the press or organization. The fair’s well-organized website, by the way, lists the exhibitors by country, and by state for those from the U. S., with useful information and a link for each. I spoke with a member of Lodret Vandret,  a publisher of artist’s books from Copenhagen who gave me a small catalog for One Thousand Books, an art book fair held this past May in a supermarket (take your work to the audience) as a way to extend familiarity with artists’ books. Public School Editions, a non-profit Israeli imprint, has published Concrete Desert; Brutalist structures in the Israeli periphery, Pax Israeliana; 12 Memorials, and Israeli Modernism Index 1947-77.  It’s hard for me to judge whether their work is archival or ironic, but probably interesting on both fronts.  New Observations   a conceptual print magazine, is published by artists, with a different guest editor for each issue. It has a distinguished list of editorial consultants, and is run out of New York, but I was assured it works on a shoestring.

Picpus, a free journal without a website

‘Picpus’ photo courtesy Annexe Magazine
“Picpus” photo courtesy Annexe Magazine

Picpus is the extreme rarity of a quarterly arts journal published in London that has no web presence, although you can contact the press by email: The free publication is printed on large sheets of paper which are folded to more-or-less passport size. The journal includes color and is serious about design, despite a format more usually associated with throw-away brochures, and carries primarily short pieces on a wide range of overlooked topics. The sole Mexican imprint, Combo publishes a poster-magazine, described as having a strong emphasis on the serendipity of the creative process. I asked Combo‘s publisher whether there was much of an artists’ publishing scene in Mexico City – apparently not. He was pleased to know about Pablo Helguera’s Librería Donceles, currently at Kent Fine Art.

Illegible and unreadable – a classic by Bruno Munari

The crowd at the Art Book Fair taking a rest, photo courtesy the fair
The crowd at the Art Book Fair taking a rest, photo courtesy the fair

A large tent in the center of the courtyard housed an exhibition of Bruno Munari’s work, in addition to numerous exhibitors. I discovered Munari’s work long before I had any context for his early and populist productions – artist’s books avant la lettre –  and walked away with one of his libri illeggibili (un-readable books). Designed in 1949 and published in inexpensive form in 1984 (with Corriani ), the seventh edition of MN 1 still sells for less than ten dollars. A very good value for a classic.

Bruno Munari ‘Libro Illeggibili MN 1'
Bruno Munari, Libro Illeggibili MN 1

artists books, artists’ collectives, bruno munari, combo, corriani, libri illeggibili, lodret vandret, moma ps1, n y art book fair, new observations, one thousand books, picpus, printed matter, public school editions, un-readable books


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