6 Unmissable Art Book Fairs For Your Cultural Calendar

September 13, 2018

As the title suggests, art book fairs are annual manifestations which feature mainly art-related publications. Like biennials or other art exhibition formats, they attract artists, art book creators, illustrators, writers, specialty printers, independent publishers and their audiences. The selection process differs from one art book fair to another and while some include books considered as objects, artist multiples, limited edition art books or art history related books, others are much broader and also include cultural magazines, zines, graphic novels, etc. These particular events are public and they generate other significant activities for the art world such as artist installations, projects, happenings, workshops, talks, panel discussions or book launches.

The format of art book fairs is different than a traditional fair or a book fair since they are not that formal, and are the perfect melting pot for all the publishers and artists to mingle and potentially collaborate. The art book fairs belong to the artist-run culture and often they address to art-making in the neoliberal era since they empower to a certain extent knowledge production. Offprint Paris director Yannick Bouillis once stated that:

(...)An authentic, autonomous space within the art community. Books and other publishing artifacts such as magazines, posters, and tapes are—in comparison to artworks—relatively free from public and market concerns.

One of the first non-profit organizations to stage the art book fair was the New York City-based Printed Matter established in the 1960s. It started as a bookstore and gallery focused on alternative art practice publishing and artist-run culture, a logic transferred through the contemporary art book events.

In recent years, these fairs have rapidly grown and they started attracting a wider audience. For example, in 2015 the NY Art Book Fair hosted three hundred seventy exhibitors from twenty-eight countries and had an estimated 35,000 guests in attendance.

Having in mind the increasing importance of these events, we made a list of the six most influential art book fairs around the globe.

Featured image: San Francisco Art Book Fair. Image via shifter.media

The London Art Book Fair

The London Book Fair is a large annual book-publishing trade fair and a global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across all the possible media. It was founded in 1971 by Clive Bingley and Lionel Leventhal and initially, the event was called the Specialist Publishers Exhibition for Librarians.

Over the years, the whole thing grew and attracted a larger audience and in 1977 they adopted the title London Book Fair. Each year it was organized at the Olympia exhibition center until 2006 when LBF was moved to the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Nevertheless, due to low feedback and logistic the event was returned to west London in 2007 and took place at Earls Court Exhibition Centre where is being held since.

Featured image: The London Book Fair 2016. Image creative commons

NY Art Book Fair

The NY Art Book Fair is organized annually at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, New York. This event is free and open to the public and takes place on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was organized by an influential artist AA Bronson, who is a director of the mentioned organization Printed Matter, Inc., from 2004 to 2010, and since then is run by Shannon Michael Cane and Jordan Nassar, until Cane's death in November 2017.

The NY Art Book Fair hosts almost three hundred independent presses, zines, booksellers, antiquarian dealers from over twenty countries, and it covers special programming, such as the Contemporary Artists' Books Conference, and special exhibitions.

Featured image: Printed Matter, Inc.'s storefront. Image creative commons.

LA Art Book Fair

The following event is the LA Art Book Fair, also organized by Printed Matter, Inc. This is a free and open to the public event for artists’ books, art catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines presented by three hundred international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishing houses.

The curiosity is that in 2016 thirty-nine thousand people attended the fair, and a year later the fifth annual LA Art Book Fair held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA was even more attended. It was canceled for this year, but the 2019 edition will go as planned.

Featured image: Opening Night at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair. Image via pairs-la.com

Chicago Art Book Fair

The Chicago Art Book Fair is perhaps the youngest manifestation of this kind since it was established in 2017 as an experiment in showcasing emerging directions and diverse legacies within small press arts publishing. It gathered a number of one hundred and twenty-five international publishers, book artists, comics artists, zinemakers and printmakers, and was followed by a special satellite programming and after parties.

The upcoming edition of The Chicago Art Book Fair will be held at the historic Chicago Athletic Association and will be free and open to the public.

Featured image: Chicago Art Book Fair Visual Identity. Image via platplatformform.com

SF Art Book Fair

The SF Art Book Fair is an annual festival of artists' publications happening during the course of several days. It is free and open to the public and offers artists’ books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, zines, printed ephemera, and artists' multiples. Over one hundred independent publishers, antiquarian dealers, artists, collectors, and enthusiasts gather around the SF Art Book Fair.

Theaccompanying program is always conducted of talks, discussions, book launches, on and off-site special projects, exhibitions and signings. Each year the fair tends to provide a platform for national and international publishers and to promote their work to a new audience.

Featured image: San Francisco Art Book Fair. Image via sfartbookfair.com

Singapore Art Book Fair

The last on the list, but not the least is the Singapore Art Book Fair, which is an independent annual festival specialized in contemporary art books & zines. It is a free event open for public and along with art books, it features art catalogs, monographs, zines, and printed ephemera.

The manifestation is always accompanied by a number of art-related activities. The agenda of SGABF is to promote publishing activity by representing local and international exhibitors to a wider audience and to include as much as possible artists, collectors, and art book enthusiasts.

Featured image: Singapore Art Book Fair 2018. Image via artasiapacific.com