Alternative ways of viewing and collecting art: /edition art book fair launches in Toronto
Splash image: “The Ground and the Sky (for Remy Charlip)” by Michael Dumontier; foil printing on the cover of an old found book (Image courtesy of Paul + Wendy Projects, Toronto)
This week, you better save an extra hour (or two) for /edition, the first annual international art book fair in Toronto. The fair runs concurrently with Art Toronto from October 28th to October 31st, is located on the ground floor of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and best of all, admission is free.
/edition will welcome a broad-spectrum of exhibitors including book publishers, commercial galleries, collectives, artist-run centres, independent artists, book-makers and dealers from across the globe. Visitors will get the opportunity to browse contemporary and historical editions, multiples, publications and collectible art-related ephemera at varied price-points. Hosting a series of talks, workshops, and panel discussions by Canadian and international artists, curators, collectors, critics, and performers, /edition Toronto literally has something for everyone.
We caught up with Bill Clarke to find out more about /edition Toronto and to discover how art books can both enhance and compliment an art collection. Bill is the director of /edition Art Book Fair, as well as the Executive Editor of Magenta Magazine. He has been published in Modern Painters, Art Review, Canadian Art, cmagazine, and Artsnews to name a few, and is also a well-known Toronto art collector.
What was the inspiration behind /edition Toronto?
Magenta Foundation, being an art book publisher, and Division Gallery, had noticed the proliferation of art book fairs around the world. The New York Art Book Fair under the auspices of Printed Matter has grown exponentially in recent years, and within the last five years or so, similar book fairs have sprung up in Los Angeles, London (U.K.), Basel and Vancouver. Given Toronto's central role in the development of artist books and multiples, since the inception of Art Metropole in the early-70s, not recognizing that history and having a book and editions fair of an international scope was starting to feel like a glaring lack. For a long time, many artists engaged in these kinds of art production asked why Toronto didn't have such a fair, but no one was really coming forward to organize such a thing, which is understandable since putting together a fair of such scope is A LOT of work!
What do you hope visitors will take away from the fair?
Well... books and multiples purchased from our vendors, for one thing! [Laughs.] But, seriously, what we hope is that attendees to the fair gain an appreciation for art-related publishing, and alternative forms of art production, like artist's books and multiples, which we are defining as artworks produced in editions greater than one. We hope that visitors to /edition, who may be coming from or heading to Art Toronto, will discover how artist's books and editions can complement and enhance a collection consisting of paintings, sculptures, drawings or other 'unique' forms of art. And, for those who are interested in owning art, but who are like me and have limited means to purchase art, I hope that they discover how interesting collections can be built without breaking the bank. Artist's books and editions are a good way to start a collection for those who are just beginning to figure out what their interests are, and while some people may feel that artist's books and editioned work aren't as "valuable" as one-of-a-kind pieces, they can still turn into good investments (if one is concerned about such things). Remember, an artist may produce a book, print or object in, say, an edition of 20 or 50, but remember that there are only 20 or 50 in existence in the entire world! So, artist's books and multiples can become very special, sought-after things over time.
Do you feel that books are still relevant in 2016?
Absolutely, especially in the case of things like artist's books, which are usually designed to provide some sort of visual or tactile experience. Humans are tactile beings. We like to feel and touch things, and for fans of books, there's nothing like feeling paper between your fingers. And, in the case of more traditional art-book publishing, like monographs of an artist's work, there are production values that go into those sorts of publications that can't be replicated online. Many galleries see producing books for their artists' exhibitions as an important 'perk' that they can offer, and many artists want this concrete record of their work. I think we're still living in a time when things that are put into print (in a book or in a magazine) are perceived as more important or reliable than the images or texts we see online.
What do you look for at book fairs?
At this point in my collecting, I look for books and editions that will enhance what I already have. At present, I have an appreciation for book works that somehow re-purpose or re-contextualize old photographs or visually play with text. But, you never know what you'll find at such fairs, so it's best just to keep an open mind!
Is there anyone speaking at /edition that you are particularly excited about?
Art Metropole did an amazing job at bringing together a program of speakers and presenters who will be challenging, talking about pressing social, political and environmental issues. I am particularly looking forward to Hanna Black's talk on the Friday evening. She is a name that I've heard mentioned a lot, but I've had no opportunities to experience her work directly. And, recently, I read her review of the recent Berlin Biennale in Artforum, which made me chuckle at points, but ultimately made me gloomily wonder whether it is even possible for us to extract ourselves from the race-relations quagmire the world is currently in. So, I look forward to hearing what she has to say about such issues. And, I hope there is time for questions!