A few weeks ago (slowly but surely catching up with my life…) I made the trek from Park Slope to Long Island City to attend the NY Art Book Fair, presented by Printed Matter, Inc. – a non-profit organization that promotes awareness and distribution of artists’ books – and held at MoMA PS1 – the more experimental exhibition space branch of the MoMA.
I emerged from my long underground journey a bit low on energy. It was a brisk day, and I wanted chai. Luckily, my local companion, Emily, knew a good place to caffeinate: Communitea, which I immediately recognized from Gossip Girl (the show is filmed in LIC. Am I cool yet?). They did have something I’d never seen before: green tea chai. It was earthy and perfect. Perked up we headed to PS1.
LIC is a generally quiet neighborhood and my brief time spent there suggests it’s comprised mainly of yuppy types with a smattering of hipster. But we turned a corner towards the book fair and it was like a portal to Williamsburg. Hello art scene.
Feeling slightly intimidated by the ultacool hipsters, we walked gingerly toward the exhibition and saw a large white tent. Well, tents are like the circus…and the circus is for everyone…this could work. We approached the ticket desk. Free entry! Definitely could work.
We ambled through the crowd and into the tent, to find a maze of tables lined with every art magazine (they only call them “zines,” presumably to save time? the logic of which I’m botching by writing a whole parenthetical explanation of? oops). It was very crowded but manageable, and the pieces (some free, some for sale) were funny, witty, and inspiring.
My favorite discovery was the Bureau for Open Culture, an organization that puts out awesome publications to accompany their innovative exhibitions.
I bought one of their books called Calling Beauty, published with their exhibition of the same name in 2010. It contains an introductory essay by the Bureau’s director and curator James Voorhies, and an essay about the notion of beauty by Susan Sontag. It also has wonderful images of each part of the exhibition. Both written pieces were extremely engaging and stimulating, and they actually made me want to read analytical art writing for the first time since I had to for a grade. And both pieces (particularly Sontag’s) are relevant and engrossing without seeing the exhibition itself. I highly recommend. What’s even more awesome is you can download them all as PDFs for free.
They also sold totes with a neon orange logo. I bought one. I’m such a tote sucker. Yup.
Beyond the tent were two other structures. A trailer:
And the actual PS1 building:
The rest of the visit was a blur. There were multiple floors, we got lost once (twice?), and just tried to stay afloat in the multi-floor sea of enthusiasts.
And then there were books. Book galore. Books about art, books about artists, books by artists, old books, new books, red books….
I found a gem: “Pocket Library of Great Art” French Impressionism book from 1953. Pretty excited about it.
And then there was a window. A calm, quiet scene with a crazy dark cloud that reminded me that we were in Queens and that I would like to get to know it better:
Overall, a lovely afternoon, and well worth the trip. This was my first book fair since middle school, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.