The Most Affordable Place to Buy Art? Try a Book Fair

Welcome to the 2016 Printed Matter NY Art Book Fair!
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Tiny epitaphs by Kate Walchuk at Halifax Ink's booth.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
A digital and interactive monograph of Japanese artist Masaki Fujihata's artwork at French publisher Anarchive's booth.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
An early work by Linder from the collection of Toby Mott.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
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Toby Mott's collection of punk ephemera in Andrew Roth's room.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Japanese artist Misa Kikawai's booth.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Tauba Auerbach's Diagonal Press.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
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Pins designed by Auerbach's Diagonal Press.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Cory Arcangel's Surfware line.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Objects by John Baldessari, and Ricky Swallow and Werkstatte Carl Aubock, "published" by the Thing Quarterly.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
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T-shirts by Joyce Pensato at Petzel Gallery's booth.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Room Services, a multi-day performance/studio collaboration between Oscar Murillo, Mandy El-Sayegh and Yutaka Sone, presented by David Zwirner gallery.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
David Zwirner's booth with a mural by Murillo and Sone.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
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A book of drawings by Murillo at Zwirner.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Book fair vibes inside the XE(ROX) & PAPER + SCISSORS tent.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
Booths inside the Dome.
Photo: Alanna Martinez
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When you're done buying zines, relax on some beanbags outside in the courtyard and refresh with treats from M. Wells Dinette.
Photo: Alanna Martinez

I’m broke—again. No, not because I partied away my last dollars on artisanal cocktails or invested in a new fall wardrobe, but rather because Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair is back. The fair, now in its 11th year and running through Sunday, isn’t exactly known for being bargain shopping—art books can be pricey—but the free public event does offer a wide range of price points for zinesters, book hoarders, poster fiends and art lovers who live to collect. And collect you will.

Spread throughout the former classrooms and halls of Long Island City’s MoMA PS1, the fair has grown tremendously over the last decade to include big named galleries such as Gagosian, who has transformed a classroom into a tattoo parlor with Brooklyn’s Flyrite, and art stars such as Oscar Murillo by way of David Zwirner, who will be collaborating with Yutaka Sone and Mandy El-Sayegh in a makeshift studio on-site to make paintings and prints, the latter he’s selling for $5 each. Last year, over 35,000 people crowded the NYABF’s booths, partied at its raucous opening night preview and attended the talks, signings and performances that color the weekend’s festivities. On Friday, however, the fair was quiet and the pickings were good.

At Petzel Gallery’s booth, Joyce Pensato’s drippy, stripped down renditions of iconic cartoon and comic book characters such as Batman and Felix the Cat were available screen-printed on t-shirts for $25 a piece. The New York-born-and-based artist is best known for her appropriations of pop culture characters, tweaked and splattered to reveal darker versions than what have been served up to the kiddies. At the hands of Pensato, all that remains to identify Batman in red and blue ink is the menacing silhouette of his mask. Immediately, I buy one.

In addition to the institutional presses and galleries, many publications flock to the book fair too. I found myself naturally drawn to The Thing Quarterly’s booth, an artist-run magazine that, in their words, “publishes objects.” The Thing works with an impressive list of artists from John Baldessari to Miranda July to envision a project in the form of a functional object; in Baldessari’s case a pair of pillow cases cheekily screen-printed with the image of a woman hugging a pillow, and their most recent issue is a terrycloth bath towel by Japanese artist Ken Kagami. While I can’t afford the towel at $65, I can however afford a pair of Kagami-designed shoelaces for $12, which are adorned with doodles of deconstructed Snoopy faces.

Nearby, artist Tauba Auerbach is displaying works created under her own publishing imprint, Diagonal Press. Auerbach (who is repped by Paula Cooper Gallery and whose work has been shown at the New Museum, ICA London and MoMA) produces books, prints and an ever-evolving series of enamel pins that explore themes of perception, geometry and language. In her last exhibition with Paula Cooper, the influence of 19th century architect and theorist Claude Bragdon was front and center, and here she’s delicately reproduced two of his out-of-print publications, one on themes of four-dimensional geometry and the other on ornamentation. I’m drawn to her latest “symbolic badges,” which curl and zigzag in colorful patterns, and buy a double-looping green and gold one for $15.

With wares priced at just a few dollars for a button or sticker to hundreds (or even thousands) for rare books and original artworks, it’s easy to see how one might find themself with arms full of booty and an empty wallet. However, a girl has to buy lunch. Some finds that escaped me were Kate Walchuk’s miniature epitaphs for artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Man Ray at Nova Scotia-based press Halifax Ink’s booth. Japanese artist Misa Kikawai brought three sizes of her magenta-colored furry Arty Doll, which she created on a monumental scale at the Watermill Center in 2012. And Cory Archangel has a new addition to his surfware line of clothing and accessories: a pair of white slip-on sandals that say “FUCK NEGATIVITY” across the straps.

A fair warning to anyone headed to Long Island City this weekend: come armed with extra cash.