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NY Art Book Fair is the Coolest Book Fair Since Elementary School

by Kyle Chayka on November 5, 2010

NYABF opening card (image from printedmatter.org)

New York Art Book Fair kicks off today, so if you like print media AND contemporary art as much as we do (even though we’re online), there’s only place to be this weekend: MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, where the fair is being held. Hosted by AA Bronson, president of NYC art media shop and proponent Printed Matter, New York Art Book Fair is an unrivaled chance to get a look at that rare breed of affordable collectible contemporary art: artist books.

What sets New York Art Book Fair apart is its focus on the niche market of artist-produced and art-worldy books. Whether that’s a facsimile of an artist’s sketchbook, a small-run photo book, a volume of prints matched with poetry or just a monograph, one of NYABF’s fine purveyors will have what you need. Exhibitors include the big boys, magazines Artforum, Afterall, and Parkett, publishers MIT Press and Aperture, and an enormous breadth of indie publishers that you may have heard of, but probably haven’t. Pork Salad Press sounds fun, and I know I can’t wait to stop by Drawn and Quarterly for some fine graphic novels. There’s also a whole section of artist zines as well as Artists & Activists, “a curated selection of independent publishing by artists.” Pretty much whatever you want, it’s going to be there.

In an interview with Idiom magazine, director and founder AA Bronson said that the fair began as an attempt to remedy New York City’s flagging importance as an art book center. In 2006, he says, “Not only had we lost a number of memorable art book stores in the recent past, but even museum stores were reducing their inventory and major publishers were dumbing down their titles.” And so the rebellion was born: the first NYABF featured many European participants, but this year the fair has “280 exhibitors from 24 countries.”

A new book from Lynda Barry published by Draw and Quarterly (image from drawnandquarterly.com)

The key to everything is the fair’s diversity; nothing is left out, and the result is an inspiring clash of formats. “The idea of the NY Art Book Fair is that it can represent every manifestation of the contemporary art book,” Bronson says, “from museum catalogs and coffee table monographs on the one hand to artists’ books, scholarly publications, and zines on the other.”

NYABF is entirely free, though you may incur unexpected costs because there will be so many things desperately calling out to you to be bought. Ever wondered where the creativity and innovation that used to be in print books and magazine went? Well, head out to PS1 and check the wonders out in their native habitat. A book fair hasn’t been so cool since elementary school.

We’ll be heading to NYABF on Saturday, so stay tuned for updates, photos, and reviews of the stuff we buy.

New York Art Book Fair runs Friday November 5 through Sunday November 7, on Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm at PS1 in Long Island City. Rest assured you can find presents for everyone there, so stop freaking out about the holidays already.

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