Art book lovers are gathering at the L. A. Art Book Fair, sponsored by Printed Matter, on now through Sunday, February 3, at MOCA-Geffen downtown. The book fair is open until 5 p.m. tomorrow, and most vendors accept cash and checks only.
Who says the book is dead? A lively crowd is enjoying the love-in for art books and are busy purchasing books for their new and established art book collections. Reports are that over 2,200 people attended the First Annual L. A. Art Book Fair opening night reception.
We were pleased to find a number of treasures, in all price ranges, among the 220+ exhibitors from 21 countries. The easy objective is to find an art book to love which may also be an investment acquisition for book collectors. Smaller-run publications can sometimes increase in value quite quickly. For ourselves, we will be saving the $2 L. A. Art Book Fair handy guidebook in our archive. It is a fine resource for artists and collectors, and will be a great piece of ephemera in the future whether or not text-based books cease to be relevant. We know that a beautiful art book is here to stay.
The Printed Matter booth is a good place to start, with both new books by artists and out-of-print books, catalogues, and publications. Even copies of the legendary Avalanche magazine (we could use something like this today), published by Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp in the 1960s and 70s, in New York, are on display. These are pricey nowadays (from about $500) and very collectible.
Since we collect art ephemera and older out-of-print art books we were thrilled to see Lucy Lippard‘s Seattle card catalogue from her Numbers exhibition series. 557,087 , the approximate population of Seattle in 1969, was organized by Lippard and the Seattle Art Museum.
Lippard, an important American art writer and critic, collected 96 4×6 index cards, each created by an artist, with the artist’s “numbers” beginning with birth dates. The invited artists included a small, specific artwork on the card for the publication gathering group of artworks by the artists, many of whom, like Bruce Nauman and Allan Ruppersburg, were relative youngsters at the time, and are now firmly established culturally and critically. There is no sequence to the deck; some of today’s most celebrated names in contemporary art were included in the show. The book of cards, which is like a group show in itself, is exhibited at the fair by Monograph Bookwerks, a fine ephemera and art book seller based in Portland, Oregon.
At KARMA we were shown a wonderful new book by Dan Colen and Harvey Korine, with paintings and text, which is garnering a lot of attention. The original artworks, reproduced in the book, are installed on the walls. This is a good-looking book, a perfect acquisition for a starter art book collection and a great addition to an existing collection. KARMA is a bookstore, gallery and publisher based in New York.
Dagny Corcoran, of Art Catalogues Los Angeles (the catalogues shop at LACMA), pointed out,
People love books–there’s an enthusiastic audience for art books.
She said that over the past few years the popularity of art book collecting has been growing; it is an affordable way to begin a collection. Some catalogs have small runs, perhaps only 800 in an edition, so the book becomes “rare” and goes out-of-print fairly quickly, and the investment of buying a catalogue is put into something to enjoy. She credits AA Bronson of Printed Matter, here from New York, with the organization of this First Annual L. A. Art Book Fair. Corcoran commented that the exhibitors and public are already asking about next year, and seeing this activity as a perfect fit for MOCA. At her space we saw a wonderful out-of-print catalogue for a 1968 exhibit of artworks by Joe Goode and Ed Ruscha held at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, now the Orange County Contemporary Art Museum.
Three Star Books (onestar Press/Three Star Books/Sequence Press) showed an art book, Black Cat, by John Armlager containing glitter pages that cover the spectrum of available colors and finishes with large glitter prints installed on the walls, a wry commentary on shiny things.
The Zine World section of the book fair includes many fine examples of publications. At Darin Klein & Friends we saw a small boxed set of 22 artist books for just $20. And in the Friendly Fire area were books and zines by art and social activists. These purveyors fuzz the lines that usually separate the categories of art books, literature, and zines. A tempting selection of small-run DIY books are available in this section.
The fair includes a memorial to the Los Angeles artist Mike Kelley, an installation at the Gagosian space which has two bookshelves loaded with books gathered up by friends as a tribute to the late artist.