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Outside the New York Art Book Fair at PS1 (all photos by the author)

The trek out to PS1 for the 2010 New York Art Book Fair took me on the G train to Long Island City, away from Hyperallergic’s Williamsburg office. Yet somehow, the population of Williamsburg had followed me there. The concrete colonnade and ramped steps leading up to PS1’s converted school building were filled with more keds, more obscure totebags, more skinny jeans, and photocopied zines than one often sees in a single place. Once inside, the books on offer only slightly outnumbered the visitors.

Donald Judd’s monograph only costs $8,500

On the first floor, a spread of wonders splayed out in the form of glass vitrines filled with collectibles: artist monographs, old exhibition pamphlets, signed ephemera. Way more than I could possibly afford, but I spent some time poking around nonetheless. There was a cool Lawrence Weiner sparkly poster and some neat Max Ernst illustrated leafs from the original print run of a book. Fortunately, things got more interesting and accessible upstairs.

Artist books and zines seem to be what New York Art Book Fair is really meant for. Poking around the $5 pamphlets, hand screen prints and small-run whatever was more inspiring, more interesting and less formal than trying to jog some dealer’s attention for a Rauschenberg brochure. Photographer Alec Soth had a crew of Little Brown Mushroom publishing people on PS1’s second floor, selling Last Days of W newspapers and Jason Polan inside joke posters. The crew could be heard exchanging quips about Alec and his whereabouts (Minnesota, the homeland, duh).

Book purveyors in one of the crowded central galleries at PS1

On the third floor, a huge central room played host to a maze of tables featuring purveyors of every kind, including my favorite graphic novel publisher, Drawn and Quarterly. Their products on offer included a selection of books by the New Yorker-illustratin’ Adrian Tomine, which were cool. Zines dominated, including some excellent selections from Providence. In the smaller galleries of the third floor, t-shirts were printed as onlookers gawked, tote bags were hawked and photo books perused.

As my fellow travelers and I poked our heads out the school building windows to catch a breath from the endless array of printed matter, we caught sight of a dance performance featuring several ladies in gray twitching to the (more interesting) beat of a DJ spinning with a live drummer. Further out on the horizon, the sun set over scattered skyscrapers and the whole event took on the feel of a very strange, very creative block party. Out on the steps, there was coffee and wine being sold and a group crouched around a table eating a picnic of sausage on mustarded bread.

The crowds at the event itself edged somewhere between overwhelming and exciting; it was definitely the place to be, and that was awesome. It’s just tough to get a good look at that literary journal you’re eyeing or even attempt to comprehend a paragraph of text with the palpable buzz around. The excitement made it fun, but exhausting. After escaping the orbit of straggling fair-goers we left PS1 and drifted to a diner around the corner to get watery coffee. More fedoras than you will ever see in a diner post-1950s, I promise.

A Lawrence Weiner poster for sale

Over at Art Fag City, Paddy Johnson posted a recommendation to visit the Art Book Fair not once, but twice, and then apologized for not covering it more, it was that great. The press preview looks to be slightly emptier than public hours.

The News Gallery noted that “often times it became frustrating to navigate to your desired destination,” the crush was so overwhelming. The crowds really speak to the popularity of art book-making.

Art book making may be popular, but Alec Soth writes through Little Brown Mushroom that though the media covered the book fair, they didn’t take the time to analyze the books themselves. We at Hyperallergic are trying to remedy that.

Rhizome has an excellent recap of the event, plus a comprehensive photo essay that features many of the cool things to be had at the Book Fair.

T Magazine has a great overview as well.

Publishers Anteism have a four minute video run through of PS1 that gives an idea of the festival atmosphere that pervaded the space.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...