For artists and dealers whose work is primarily grounded in prints and printmaking, battling misconceptions about the medium has long been a central component of the job. As the art market continues to rapidly evolve and expand, moving away from physical reality and into digital realms like AI, the fight to prove the relevance of printmaking has only become more of an uphill battle. Still, hundreds of artists, galleries, publishers, collectors, and aficionados gathered at the Javits Center this Thursday, October 26, to celebrate the centuries-old art form at the preview of this year’s International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) Fine Art Print Fair.
Priding itself on being the largest international art show dedicated to prints and editions, the IFPDA fair is held annually in the fall and spans works from the last several hundred years. Through Sunday, October 29, the 30th edition gathers over 90 exhibitors presenting works by myriad artists across history such as Albrecht Dürer, Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns, Cecily Brown, Edvard Munch, and many more.
“What I love about the print fair is that you can see everything,” artist and educator Barbara Madsen told Hyperallergic at the event’s preview. Madsen, director of the Rutgers Print Collaborative, has been coming to the fair since it first opened in 1991. In this year’s edition, one of her favorite works was conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s “What Am I Doing Here?” (2023), a large-scale print installation featuring a bold question, written in three-dimensional text, that felt almost too on-point for Midtown Manhattan.
Another returning participant in the fair, founding member of the Black Women of Print collective LaToya Hobbs, noted that because of the fair’s specificity, many collectors who go to IFPDA tend to have a “working knowledge and built-in appreciation” for printmaking. For the collective’s booth, Hobbs had several woodcut works on display, including “Arc of Safety” (2023) — a self-portrait of her and her son that aligns with her interest in matriarchs and motherhood.
“Sadly, there’s just not a lot of representation of Black women doing printmaking, but we are very much active,” Hobbs said. “There are lots of [us] all over the country and the world making fantastic work. But a lot of times people aren’t just seeing it.”
At another end of the event, Yashua Klos’s “Our Labour” (2020) sprawling woodblock print mural was another nod to historically marginalized artists and histories. Measuring 40 feet, the installation is a reinterpretation of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals (1932–33). But unlike Rivera’s 27-paneled fresco depicting mostly White Ford Motor Company workers during the automobile industry boom, Klos’s “Our Labour” focuses on the important yet overlooked role of Black laborers in American history.
Other contemporary works on view include Maya Lin’s new generative art collection Ghost Forest Seedlings (2023). A continuation of her 2021 public installation Ghost Forest, a project featuring 49 white cedar trees that grappled with the devastating effects of climate change, this new body of prints pair with NFT “seedlings” that digitally grow over predetermined timelines.
“Contemporary art has taken over the fair,” said Brigitta Laube, director of rare book and antiquarian print dealer August Laube Buch & Kunstantiquariat — a business founded in 1922 by her grandfather. Pointing to a 16th-century work on display by Flemish engraver Pieter van der Heyden that she noted as one of her favorites, Laube explained that the knowledge of many art collectors has “diminished rapidly,” as many tend to overlook works by 16th- and 17th-century masters for big-name contemporary artists.
“There is a spirit in the culture which says, ‘Old is bad, and young is good, and what is of the present is better, more interesting and more important than what is of the past,” agreed Alan Stone of Massachusetts’s Hill-Stone art dealers. Specializing in prints and drawings from the 15th-century to the early 20th-century, Stone agreed that “very few” collectors today have an understanding of antiquarian art. “The art of the past has a lot to say that, quite frankly, the art of the present cannot say, nor tries to say,” Stone added.
Luckily for visitors — whether you’re a fan of old-school woodcuts or obsessed with the latest blockchain — this year’s IFPDA fair offers something for everyone.