New York Art Book Fair 2015 | Best Of The Books

Red Fox Press table display.

“Books are the mirrors of the soul,” Virginia Woolf said. Speaking of the written word is one thing; when one adds art into the equation, a book takes on tremendous new possibilities. No longer is one required to be fluent, or event literate to read a book. The visual and tactile take on a heightened prominence in order to convey and communicate ideas, emotion, and understanding through the purely sensory experience of looking and touching. The result is one that is as singular as it is primal; our first books are picture books. It is in the art book that we return to an earlier version of our current selves.

Also: N.Y. Art Book Fair 2015 | Best Of The Zines

Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair at PS 1 MoMA, NY, featured some of the most inspiring and innovate art book publishers, book sellers, institutions, and antiquarians working around the world today. Among the stand outs include Boo-Hooray, David Zwirner Books, and Other Criteria (New York); Harper’s Books (East Hampton, NY); East of Borneo (Los Angeles); MACK, Ridinghouse, and Trolley Books (London); Edition Patrick Frey (Zurich); and Pogo Books (Berlin).

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The success of art book fairs over recent seasons has been tremendous, allowing small, independent book publishers like Trolley Books to continue to publish their list of some of the most challenging, provocative, and profound photography books. With a list that includes classics like Thomas Dworzak’s Taliban (2004) and Daniele Tamagni’s Gentlemen of Bacongo (2009), Trolley Books is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year, introducing the incredibly beautiful new monograph, Looking for Alice by Sian Davey.

Founded by Gigi Giannuzzi, Trolley is a reference to Giannuzzi’s earliest years as a publisher, when he went around Frankfurt Book Fair carrying a suitcase (trolley) filled with book projects. After Giannuzzi’s death in 2012, publisher Hannah Watson has continued forth, preserving his legacy and commitment to the art of the book. “Gigi would have loved the N.Y. Art Book Fair,” Watson observes. “He would be in his element. The fairs are where we do our main distribution. We just did Arles, and will be doing Paris, London, and Los Angeles. There’s nothing else like this.”

Indeed, the N.Y. Art Book Fair is a singular experience, with each booth filled with gems like veritable treasure chests. In a series of glass cases hugging the corners of the walls, Harper’s Books presents some of the finest selections from its rare book gallery including first editions of The Bikeriders by Danny Lyon (1968), Women Are Beautiful by Garry Winogrand (1975), and Skins by Gavin Watson (1994). For a book lover, the value accorded to these rare editions warms the heart – to see Robert Frank’s The Americans (1959) priced at $9,500 is to know that great books are smart investments on all fronts.

In that same way, it’s also exciting to see a cheap paperback filled with rage and madness kept under glass, more as though it looks quite degradable and would disintegrate upon touch. That paperback is Valerie Solanas’ S.C.U.M. Manifesto, which now sells for $350 at Other Criteria. The book, which became an underground classic due in large part to Solanas’ attempt to kill Andy Warhol in 1968, begins with Solanas’ warning, “’Life’ in this ‘society’ being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of ‘society’ being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”

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Such thrilling little tidbits of high art and low lives fit in beautifully under the larger umbrella which is the N.Y. Art Book Fair. There’s a lovely laissez-faire attitude that pervades the fair, as each exhibitor makes their booth, like their books, a creative venture. The cumulative effect of the diversity of content, style, and approach to creating art books makes one hunger for the perfect object to take home. 

Wandering through the rooms, one gets a sense of all time and space disappearing, and what remains is a longing to look and to touch, and to find that perfect book to take home and to study in leisure. Such a book came across my path when I came upon the Ridinghouse booth. A plain white paperback sat quietly amongst the more bold cover designs. With 14 point sans serif text at the bottom it gently proclaimed, “A People on the Cover | Glenn Ligon”. I picked it up and started paging quietly, taking it all in, knowing it would be the next book I would be reviewing for Crave.

Photos © Miss Rosen.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.