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Posts Tagged ‘art books’

No Sale

January 5, 2015 | by

In Berlin, art and commerce shake hands—sort of.

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Photo: Anai Lee Ender, 2014. Courtesy of Friends with Books, Berlin.

Despite its homespun name, Friends with Books: Art Book Fair Berlin bills itself as “Europe’s premier festival for contemporary artists’ books and periodicals by artists and art publishers.” I have no reason to doubt them. Last month, more than a hundred publishers—ranging from the large to the very, very small—spent two days squeezed behind tables in the main hall of Café Moskau, a haunted leftover of the German Democratic Republic aristocracy on Karl-Marx-Allee. Outside, the building resembled a modernist cake topped with sans-serif signage and a gleaming silver Sputnik. Inside, bespoke chapbooks abutted objets d’art, free posters, and glossy five-hundred-Euro retrospectives, often at the same table. It seemed a stark contrast to the Miami Beach scene from which some attendees were still recovering: the one that had featured Miley Cyrus, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and a veritable fleet of private yachts.

Yes, here was a scene more fitting Berlin, the pink-mohawked little sibling of the art world. Some of the usual industry suspects were present, such as the magazines frieze, e-flux, and Texte zur Kunst, along with international art publishers like Valiz, Walther König, and Sternberg. But these were easily outnumbered by the small presses, many of them volunteer-run passion projects. As I entered the long exhibition hall, I had to sidestep embraces meant for friends who’d just flown in from London, Lisbon, or Copenhagen. (The greeter’s country of origin determined the number and directionality of air kisses, and before long I’d witnessed every conceivable variation without once seeing an awkward fumble. Luckily, no one wanted to kiss me.) As I began to browse the publishers’ tables, I felt like I really was walking among a group of friends who’d gathered for a bookshelf-bragging party. Maybe a hundred people were pressed together in the room and talking at the same time, but softly, with the velvet-lined savoir faire that makes dinner parties here such subdued operations. And they were even talking about the books! Somewhat astonishingly for an art fair, art seemed to be the main subject of conversation, rather than the forthcoming after-party or which infamous collector just walked through the door or whose painting sold for how much. The hall was crowded, the mood convivial, the money nowhere to be found. To witness an actual sale was rare, and I almost felt I’d committed a faux pas when I asked a local distributor for a copy of Raphael Rubinstein’s The Miraculous. Then, when I handed the bookseller a twenty, we discovered he had no change. Read More »

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Biographies in Bronze, by Fredda Brilliant

May 12, 2014 | by

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From the cover of Biographies in Bronze

I am ashamed to admit that, as recently as one week ago, I’d never heard of Fredda Brilliant. My life was the poorer for it. Born in Poland to a Jewish family in the diamond trade, Brilliant was an actress, novelist, screenwriter, and activist who died in 1999. According to the dust jacket of her 1986 memoir-cum-art-book Biographies in Bronze, “She also composes the music and lyrics for songs which she herself sings at concerts, radio, and TV.”

She was best known, however, as a sculptor and personality. As the Independent related in her obituary,

Nehru once said of Fredda Brilliant that when at work she looked like a mad woman—in day-to-day life she would without restraint sing out loud in public—tears would flow as easily as laughter and anger. She promenaded around the Sussex village of Henfield dressed in long black dresses, tasselled shawl about her shoulders and brilliant headscarf encircling her dark hair and small face—in winter she would wear a fur coat to the knees.

The dust jacket intrigued me, yes, when I came across Biographies in Bronze on the dollar cart at Unnameable Books. But it was not until I actually opened the book—specifically, to the picture of Brilliant’s bust of one Tom Mann—that I knew it must be mine.Read More »

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