Dear NY Art Book Fair, I love you, but baby, you’re a mess. A beautiful, crazy creative, exciting mess.
You come around once a year and drive all the art kids wild: the nutty old collectors, the zine fiends, the rabid risographers, the earnestly esoteric, and those who can only see straight down their nose. This weekend 39,000 of them packed into the PS1 MoMA courtyard for a glimpse at your broadsides. (A note to the uninitiated: if you’ve never forced your way through an airless geodesic dome over to a stuffy tent and into a maze of windowless galleries for the pleasure of thumbing through a pamphlet of what you’re pretty sure are vaginas lushly rendered in neon gradients—you haven’t lived.)
Attending you each year has become compulsory for what seems like every creative person, not just in New York City, but on the planet, with exhibitors traveling from lands far, far away. For the see-and-be-seen lo-fi art event of the year, it’s surprisingly hard to see much of anything. Not only because there are thousands of people blocking the way, but because there’s just so damn much of you. Dearest NY Art Book Fair, from rarities like dead stock ’70s erotica and limited edition punk zines (complete with original staples!), to junk mail rescued from Sol LeWitt’s very own trash can lovingly reproduced alongside interpretations by emerging artists, there isn’t a niche you can’t fill. And I love that you cast such a wide net, I just hate that you make me feel like a squirming fish trapped with the bycatch. But I think there’s a way out.
First off, your identity is all logo, no wayfinding. I literally get lost in you. When I asked a volunteer to help me make sense of your layout, she told me it was “curated by content,” which, after some probing, meant there were “some magazines and books in the dome, some other ones in the tent, and then everything else inside.” Right.
How about some signage, baby? With everything on offer sitting waist-high on tables and thereby hidden by the hordes, there’s no way to know which way to turn when I enter your new gallery or tent spaces. And how about letting the rest of us in on how you’re “curated by content?” I wouldn’t ever have known you kept all your rare and out-of-print goodies tucked away inside unless I took a tour offered only to press. What else are you hiding, love muffin? And while I’m on the subject, how about curatorial tours for the public? I’m thinking an early morning, small fee situation would work wonders. If people are willing to drop $20 for a Xeroxed and stapled ode to animal fecal matter, you can bet they’ll pay to be guided through to find other gems for their collection.
NY Art Book Fair, my sweet, I’m glad it’ll be another year till we’re together again. You’re thrilling, intense, and exhausting; you’re my manic pixie dream girl of art shows, and you wear me out each time we meet.