Last week I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for the 10th annual New York Art Book Fair (NYABF). The fair was started in 2006 by artist and then president of Printed Matter, AA Bronson as an annual showcase of artists’ books, catalogs, periodicals, zines, records, and cassettes, as well as exhibiting archival materials from specific presses/artists, and hosting performances and the Contemporary Artist’s Book Conference, whose planning committee I sit on. I spent three full days at the fair and am 100% sure I didn’t see everything. There were 35,000 attendees, so I did see a lot of sweaty backs. I was impressed with the quality and diversity of programming this year, including a panel about Atlanta-based superstars Nexus Press (which later turned into the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center) and Art Papers. It was nice to see the South represented alongside such an international spread of speakers and performers.
The conference sessions I attended were insightful and timely. The discussions often evolved into lively conversation between presenters and audience members. I especially enjoyed the dialogue around Susan Thomas’s sessions “Artist’s Records and Recordworks.” This may seem like an odd subject for an artists’ book fair, but the genre is wide-ranging and historically based. We have an artist book in the Museum library by Andy Warhol that includes a recordwork and a piece in the collection that includes a record by Bruce Nauman. Recently records have been produced as alternative exhibition catalogs. Speakers included Matthew Higgs, curator and director of White Columns, Art historian Francesco Spampinato, who recently published Can you Hear Me? Music Labels by Visual Artists, and artist and founder of Weird Records Pieter Schoolwerth.
I purchased a few things for the library, and have a list a mile long of things I’d like to purchase for the library. It’s difficult to know where to start when developing an artist’s book collection. For now, I’m using the Museum’s permanent collection as a starting point, but I also want to focus on local connections, especially where they intersect with global themes. I purchased two books from the legendary Bread and Puppet Theater and a beautiful book by Aidan Koch, a New York-based artist who occasionally works with the Birmingham-based record label Noumenal Loom.