My trip to New York for my friends' nuptials coincided nicely with the annual NY Art Book Fair, so of course I had to make time in my vacation schedule to check it out. The NY Art Book Fair was FREE and open to the public. This was their fourth year overall, but their first in the lovely and expansive galleries of P.S. 1 in Queens.
Despite a torrential downpour (and a remarkably engineered tent which rhythmically launched a waterfall of rain onto the staircase leading into the event, making Fair-goers carefully time their ascents, Super Mario-style), the Art Book Fair was incredibly well-attended, with hundreds of artists, art lovers, collectors, and other folks crowding into P.S. 1's labyrinthine assortment of galleries. The combination of the large crowds and the oppressive humidity made some of the gallaries truly unbearable, I'd be chatting with a zinester about their work and would inevitablly have to excuse myself because I was about to drip sweat all over them. But the press of the crowd made for a truly exciting experience, it felt more like an uber-hip, see-and-be-seen art show than a a run of the mill festival.
There was a remarkable diversity of work on display at the show, from zines to to stalwart art mags (Art Forum, Cabinet) to gorgeous (and presumably rare) art books and prints from the likes of Richard Prince. Given the overwhelming amount of stuff on display and my natural predilictions, I mostly perused the small-press zines and other publications, many of which were located in Friendly Fire, a curated selection of artists who self-publish their works. Even so, I couldn't spend enough time to check out even a portion of what I wanted to.
I loved this "wall o' zines" in (I think) the Friendly Fire gallery: Dozens of publications on pegs, ready to be perused. This is a pretty neat solution to displaying small pamphlets, and maybe we'll use it next year (the SFZF is thinking about having a sort of zine "reading Room" where attendees can read publications at their leisure, then be directed to the creator to purchase the works if they are intrigued).
There were lots and lots of big, beautiful displays of prints and zines crawling up the walls, which made for some nice, punk-rockish aesthetics. Many of the creators were giving some sort of print of broadsheet out for free, so I imagine that lots of kitchenettes in Williamsburg now have big, free art adorning their walls, hopefully reminding the occupants year round of the DIY creators they encountered at the Fair.
I loved this gentleman, who had a full on mini production studio going on at his table!
There were lots of screen-printers and other "fine arts" type folks there, like the kids from the collective Cinders Gallery. I'd love to attract more of this demographic to exhibit at the SFZF in future years. We've been bouncing the idea of having a SFZF juried art show for the past couple of years, and maybe we will get it together this year!
All in all the NY Art Book Fair was really inspiring for me, and made me think even more about ways to evolve and change the festival paradigm in general and the SF Zine Fest in particular. The sky's the limit!
- François Vigneault