There’s a plot twist to this year’s Rare Book Week. Alongside precious 16th century anatomy books and first editions of Edgar Allan Poe, attendees can expect to find handmade zines, pop-up books, comics, graphic novels, and photography collections from Brooklyn artists.
As usual this week, exhibitors from Hungary, Argentina, Japan, and elsewhere will converge on three book fairs across Manhattan. But for the first time, one of them– the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair, happening this weekend near Times Square– will include a Brooklyn Artists’ Fair.
The fair-within-a-fair is a result of a partnership with Booklyn, a non-profit run by artists focused on social justice, environmentalism, and bookmaking. Before moving to the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, the consensus-run art dealer was located in Greenpoint, where four years ago it connected with Marvin Getman, organizer of the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair.
Booklyn was asked to select exhibitors for 40 tables for this year’s fair, and it’s using the space for artists who will appeal to a more diverse and contemporary audience.
“There really is no full spectrum book fair in Manhattan anymore,” said Booklyn’s publisher, Marshall Weber. “All the fairs in Manhattan tend to be focused on antiquity.”
Weber argues that there’s a complexity to words like “antiquarian” and “contemporary” that gets at the issue of diversity and representation in the book and art worlds. Colonialism has played a profound role in determining which art makes it into museums and which books are sold at auction. “A lot of times ‘antiquarian’ is a covert term for ‘European,’” Weber said.
Weber believes book fairs are hoping to adapt to a new population of attendees. “You’re seeing a shift of the demographics of the audience,” he said, referring to an aging population, and gradually more women and people of color. “So, you see a shift in the demographics of the programming.”
That shift will be represented here by artists of diverse backgrounds creating socially-engaged art.
Take, for example, Colette Fu, known for her photography and intricate pop-up paper engineering. She photographed ethnic minorities in the Yunnan Province of China to complete her “We Are Tiger Dragon People” pop-up project.
Or, Rick Black, whose latest Amichai Windows project combines Yehuda Amichai poems and handmade paper triptychs, has had artist books purchased by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress and Yale University.
And, Sofia Szamosi, a painter and zinester, earned acclaim this year with her “#MeToo on Instagram: One Year Later”–an artist book where she has illustrated Instagram posts tagged with #MeToo.
Dozens of other socially, politically, or environmentally engaged artists, collectives, or presses will join their ranks.
It’s just the sort of thing you’d expect from Booklyn, whose mission statement envisions “a world in which art and bookmaking are tools for education, personal agency, community engagement, and activism.” The non-profit has previously hosted events such as “Sass & Zines: Celebrating QPOC / WPOC in Print” and “Engaged Editions: Creative Advocacy in Print,” as well as zine-making and bookbinding workshops.
Speaking about the growing popularity of graphic novels and comics, Weber said, “The art form is onto it and the antiquarian world is just getting into it.”
The NYC Book and Ephemera Fair, and Booklyn Artists’ Book Fair, will take place at the Sheraton Central Park/Times Sq. hotel on March 9 and 10. Admission is $15, but there are free admission passes circulating on social media to improve accessibility for visitors who might not normally attend a book fair. “The idea is to get a whole new audience in,” said Weber.