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5 Things You Can Buy at the NY Art Book Fair That Aren’t Books (or Tote Bags)

It’s called an art book fair but there’s so much more to this annual event that attracts tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Here are our picks of things you might want to track down.

Some of the unconventional items for sale at the Badlands Unlimited booth at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Walking through Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair can be extremely overwhelming, even borderline claustrophobic — which is probably why the first tent you come across is the one with the beer. There are so many people and so many more books upon books upon books that I found myself gravitating toward empty spaces and intrigued by objects that weren’t actually books.

But before we get to those, a couple tips if you’re planning to go this weekend. The really small presses and zines are in the two outdoor tents, while the more established publications and galleries are inside the building. If you need to go to the bathroom, the third floor is where you’ll find the shortest line. The third floor is also a great place to take a break from the hubbub inside the James Turrell Skyspace, which is open all weekend.

And now for the main event — which is actually completely tangential to the whole premise of the event — here are the best objects you can buy at this year’s Art Book Fair that are definitively not books (nor totebags or t-shirts, for that matter).

A glamorous fan on display (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Animal-Print Fans (Vasta, 1st floor, I02)

New York-based publisher Vasta focuses on “the body, the nude, and the erotic arts.” This weekend, it’s launching a very intricately drawn “feminist fairytale about the end of the world,” Grace Hannah Lang and Simon Lazarus Vasta’s Babelon. The leopard-print fans are to cool yourself down while leafing through either Babelon or one of Vasta’s selection of vintage books — including titles like Rubberslave and Blackmail Spanking. But you’ll be glad you bought the fan once you wander down the hall into the stuffier section of the building. (The air conditioning at MoMA PS1 seems to be very hit-or-miss this weekend.)

No butts about it at Open Projects (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Cigarette Butt Pins (Open Projects, 2nd floor, N51)

Both a gallery and publisher of artist books in a tiny space on the Lower East Side, Open Projects has a variety of books at its booth, featuring some of the artists they work with as well as a few small artworks — including these cigarette butt pins I liked so much. Alva CalyMayor’s “Stumpies” vary from smoked-to-the-bitter-end to put-out-quickly-and-discarded; they twist and turn like little worms, squirming around the buttons of collared shirts. (Bonus points for donating a portion of the proceeds to earthquake recovery in Mexico.)

Literary Duct Tape (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Duct Tape (Actual Source, 1st floor, C07)

Utah’s Actual Source is celebrating the publication of its 6th issue of Shoplifters with printed rolls of duct tape. Since I already wrote a bit about them earlier this week, I’ll just say that this is probably one of the most creatively utilitarian ways to promote your publication. (They used the tape themselves to attach the table cover.) But since the name of the publication is Shoplifters, they don’t expect us to actually pay for it, right?

They’re willing to rubber stamp anything (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Rubber Stamps (Siglio Press, 2nd floor, R04)

Although LA’s Siglio Press has worked with big names like Sophie Calle and Ray Johnson (Ray Johnson is all over the NYABF this year), their booth is entirely devoted to rubber stamps. Some stamps have words and phrases on them — like “Slap a cock” and “You iron your jeans” — while others are carefully carved images of an angel riding a rooster or a mouse trapped in a bottle. The staff at the table is constantly busy showing people how to layer different colors to bring out certain lines in the stamps, and you can buy a stamp yourself and even an ink pad, should you need one.

Lit it up (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Votive Candles (Anthology Editions, 3rd floor, Z03)

Based in Brooklyn, next to a record store in Greenpoint, Anthology Editions is fittingly both a book and music publisher. The votive candles at their booth promote their new book about Brooklyn band Endless Boogie’s frontman, Paul Major, who they always felt was undervalued as a musical influence. Feel the Music: The Psychedelic Worlds of Paul Major also has an accompanying record you can listen to while you read. But the experience just wouldn’t be complete without the warm glow of that votive candle.

Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair takes place at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens) through Sunday, September 24.

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