Anyone in sales will tell you -- customers don't want a deal, they want a steal! So while the millionaires haunt the halls of Sotheby's, Christie's and our other uptown friends, bargain-hunters like yours truly head over to the fifth annual Editions and Artist's Book Fair, Nov. 7-10, held this year on the 14th floor of the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea. (I've often said that art dealers really should cut critics like me in on their big deals so we could make some quick windfall profits, the way that George W. Bush did in the Harken Energy deal, but that's a story for another column).
This year, about 22 print dealers and eight book publishers from London, Paris and the U.S. paid between $1,500 and $2,500 for space to set up at the fair, which is co-organized by SoHo dealer Susan Inglett, Michelle Quinn of Brooke Alexander, and Printed Matter, the artists' bookstore in Chelsea. The event takes place simultaneously with the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) fair, currently on view at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue, Nov. 6-10, 2002 (where booths start at $8,000-$10,000). In case you wondered, the uptown exposition has everything from Old Masters to Picasso with some contemporary blue chips, while the Editions and Artist's Book Fair specializes in contemporary publishing.
On any given day, a visitor to Printed Matter's bookstore can find an daunting number of fascinating publications by artists. Here at the fair PM is offering two new multiples. A pair of white porcelain salt and pepper shakers by David Shrigley marked "heroin" and "cocaine," published by Yvon Lambert's Collection Lambert in Avignon in an edition of 30, are $75 the pair. That's what I call an affordable price, though I'm not sure I can imagine anyone actually wanting such questionable objects!
On the other hand, a small black-and-white photograph by Louise Lawler, showing a tiny mouse hanging from a tightrope (a piece by Maurizio Cattelan) in dealer Paula Cooper's library, is $100, signed, in an edition of 100 -- a definite must-have. And for real collectors, PM has a complete collection of all 16 of Edward Ruscha's artist's books (Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, Nine Swimming Pools, etc.) for $22,000.
Across the aisle at Susan Inglett is another bargain from I.C. Editions, Allan McCollum's latest in his "Visible Markers" series, which he has been making since 1997 -- here, a box of five multicolored plastic bars engraved with the word "Thanks." The price: $25. The idea of "potlatch," of course, is that the greatest status accrues to those who give the most away. What a thought!
Inglett's real treasure, however, is a pair of etchings by Paul Noble, the eccentric British draftsman who is the star of the "Drawing Now" show at MoMA QNS. Both prints are imaginative and highly intricate scenes from Nobstown, the artist's private preserve, with one showing a barbecue and tree and the other an exotic carved topiary of tree trunks. The two Old Masterish etchings, measuring 26 x 36 in. in an edition of 30, are $3,500 the pair.
At Item Editions from Paris are several attractive works by Sophie Calle, known since the early 1980s for her performative, diaristic works. One object is a multiple version of her incredible "Chromatic Diet," a set of six napkins and tablecloth printed with a color spectrum of dishes -- melon and shrimp (orange), ham (pink), spinach, cucumbers, kiwi and grapes (green). The work is, of course, inspired by a scene in Paul Auster's book Leviathan. The lot comes in a box in a double edition of 250 in French and 250 in English, and can be yours for $800.
Item's Patrice Forest also published a work based on Calle's 1980 visit to Fashion Moda in the South Bronx, the legendary alternative space run by Stefan Eins and Joe Lewis. Every day Calle went to the space and asked people she met there to show her around the borough; she took their picture and wrote short narratives of her visit. For instance, William Scott, a 15-year-old boy (who I remember well from those days -- hi William!), took Calle to Yankee Stadium. She displayed all the pages at the gallery overnight, and graffiti writers added their tags.
For the multiple, all this material-- eight photos, eight texts, installation instructions -- is reproduced and offered in a bound leather book with an embossed cover that reads, "The Bronx." The edition size is 250; the price is $900. Calle is slated for a major retrospective at the Pompidou Center next year.
At the booth of the Lower East Side Printshop, a nonprofit workshop on East 4th Street that works with about 10 artists a year, is a set of six new screenprints by Ghada Amer. My favorite is titled Sleeping Beauty without the Castle (2002), and shows several of the artist's trademark erotic images (lifted from porn magazines). It can be yours for a mere $1,000. Also on hand is a set of 10 new screenprints by Joanne Greenbaum, who shows at D'Amelio Terras; the works are published in an edition of 20 for $1,200 apiece.
On the wall at Peter Blum is a harrowing scene of dozens of smokestacks belching black smog. I thought it was George W.'s plan for the Arctic Wildlife Reserve, but it turns out to be one of 20 photogravures in a new portfolio by English film artist Tacita Dean. Called "The Russian Ending," the suite consists of images based on found postcards that Dean has re-conceived as film stills and annotated by hand with various stage directions.
Most of the images are dire -- Worthing Pier destroyed by a freak storm, Vesuvius erupting, a Spanish monk being encrypted (the title refers to Danish films from ca. 1920 that were done with duplicate happy and sad endings for different markets; the sad ones were shipped East to Russia). The boxed edition, limited to 35 copies, is $20,000. "Nothing is expensive," exclaimed the expansive Blum. "It's just a question of money!"
Also on hand at Blum, a suite of four small black-ink woodcuts by Alex Katz, clearly influenced by the German Expressionists, and a large new drypoint etching by the young English artist Simon Frost, showing the abstractionist's obsessive technique.
Chealsea bigfoot Sean Kelly also has an operation to produce artist's multiples -- Cypher Editions, run by Sean's better half, Mary Thomas Kelly. Alongside leather beauty cases by Lorna Simpson and a hand-carved wooden desk rack by David Nash is a bargain-priced cup and saucer done in bone china by Douglas Gordon. On the bottom of the cup is the pirate's "mark of death," a black spot made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. A single cup and saucer can be had for $250, while an entire carrying case containing 13 cups and saucers, a teapot and sugar and crème pots is $2,500 in an edition of 39. Maybe someone should give it to George W. to pass on to hapless Vermont senator James M. Jeffords.
Editions Fawbush has a new blood-red banner by Nancy Spero showing a nude archaic dancer with ithyphalli in both hands (edition of 12), and a mesmerizing, circular plastic box of blinking blue lights by Leo Villareal (edition of 25, $2,800). But the showpiece is a portable porthole by the art-world's own utopian designer, Andrea Zittel. Produced in an edition of 12, each pair of portholes comes with its own screws for installation ($5,000). The artist is building an entire settlement somewhere in the Southwest, Arcosanti-style, out of paper pulp made from recycled newspapers, catalogues and the like -- so send her your leftover mail.