The LA Art Book Fair (LAABF) first launched in 2013 as the West Coast version of Printed Matter’s popular New York Art Book Fair. Despite the stereotype that Angelenos aren’t a particularly bookish bunch, “the truth is that there are pockets of young people publishing various sorts of alternative publications all over the city and beyond,” as artist and former Printed Matter president AA Bronson told Hyperallergic at the time. His hunch paid off, and the fair saw over 15,000 people pass through its doors over the course of three days.
The fair continued to grow in size over the next few years, from 220 exhibitors that first year to over 300 in 2017, with more than 38,000 visitors. Then, in November of 2017, the fairs’ dynamic curator, Shannon Michael Cane, died. His tragic passing, coupled with the unavailability of the LA fair’s usual venue at the MOCA Geffen, prompted the organizers to cancel the 2018 edition with plans to regroup in 2019.
They’ve managed to come back bigger than ever this year, with a whopping 390 contributors from 31 countries, 100 of whom are LAABF newbies. As with previous editions, the exhibitors run the gamut from antiquarian booksellers, to limited edition art book presses, gallery-produced publications, artist collectives, and as always, a massive section of zines and DIY publishers. Cane’s memory will be honored with the inaugural Shannon Michael Cane Award, which will be granted to four emerging publishers exhibiting for the first time at the LAABF. This year’s winners are CHACO, Gold Rain, RUB, and Wendy’s Subway.
Alongside the wealth of exhibitors, the organizers have put together a robust programming schedule with over 100 free discussions, workshops, and performances. Highlights include “Under the Sun,” an interactive space for children and families presented by Printed Matter and Wide Rainbow, a New York-based nonprofit after-school art program, and an informal series of talks and screenings titled “The Classroom” from Paul and Damon McCarthy, George Herms and Sarah Bancroft, and many others. Montez Press Radio is also extending its reach with a live broadcast featuring interviews, music, and experimental content related to various forms of communication, from the printed word to recorded sound. On Saturday, Hamza Walker, the executive director of LAXART, will deliver the keynote address for the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference, followed by a discussion on the state of art book publishing in Los Angeles with Devin Troy Strother and Yuri Ogita of Coloured Publishing, and Wendy Yao of Ooga Booga.
Entrance to the fair is free Friday through Sunday, however a ticketed opening night celebration on Thursday offers an early chance to peruse the assembled vendors, a limited edition embroidered patch by Jeffrey Cheung, and live performances from Asmara, experimental pop outfit Eartheater, and drone and improv artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
When: Friday, April 12–Sunday, April 14 (Opening Night: Thursday, April 11, 6–9, Tickets: $20)
Where: The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (152 N. Central Ave., Downtown, Los Angeles)
More info at LA Art Book Fair.