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I’m wondering where Spring went, as it was a summer scorcher in NYC this past Friday; perhaps the blue moon had something to do with it. The Javits Center was packed with bookworms for Book Expo America, better known as the BEA. After the event in D.C. last year, with thousands of titles debuting and millions of copies in print, there shouldn’t be any trees left to cover this year's editions. It's either hemp or switch grasses or that new plastic paper, but the book publishing business seems as strong as ever. It’s not all centered around Amazon.com: book venders of all shapes and sizes are still in the fray.
The major publishers are the center of attention here and for a reason: they spend small fortunes for the hottest authors or the latest tell-all celebrity spill and in recent years, political whodunits. Throughout the weekend they trot out their stars for free signed books and photo ops. I chilled with, LL Cool J. The dude is buff; don't know what his book was about though.
Is this it for the book market? Can non-celeb-driven books continue to be printed and be profitable for a publisher? I hope so, but we need to prepare ourselves for the digital future. The publishing industry will be very different in the coming years as the Boomer market fades, the next generations will feel quite comfortable reading an e-book or laptop screen.
For page-turning Romantics, we're not there yet. There are still many small independent and niche publishers that are putting out some amazing and beautifully designed books, covering a range of topics and genera and languages. One big growth area is for texts in Spanish. These are definitely products of a lot of hard work and much love for the process. So go buy an independently published book, from your local independent book seller. A perfect compliment to the local produce harvesting right now.
From BEA I went over to SOFA New York, at the Fifth Avenue Armory. This is a high-end craft/design show that usually has some surprises that make it well worth the trip. Lots of Chihuly-inspired or cast and dripped and molded glass works, some quite good and as with the “fine art” market, a good investment for collectors. Although there were many reasonably priced pieces much of the work in this show is in the $10,000 to $40,000 range and selling briskly.
It was interesting that this was not a group of young collectors. Most were in their 40s and above. I tend to see a 20ish group at the fine art fairs, such as Scope, Aqua, and Red Dot. Craft fairs tend to attract the Boomers and ex-hippies, similar to BEA; in this case Hippies done well.
Of note is Bonnie Seeman’s Pitcher and Saucer and Michael Lucero’s Fragile Fawn, which sold at $40,000 at Duane Reed Gallery. Charia Khanna’s mysterious dolls and Brent Kee Young’s Light Boat, shown above, made of Pyrex glass, microwave safe, were at Jane Sauer.
A true find for me were Norah Deacon’s dresses fashioned from pattern tissue and black walnut dye. They have a strange aura about them, as if they have a mysterious history. If only a dress could talk, but let's not go there. Nancy Margolis often has interesting work in her Chelsea gallery. Her booth here was full of some of the better figurative ceramic work at the fair, including that of Sun Kooyuh.
The gallery that interested me most, not only because they exhibited my girlfriend Joyce Scott’s fabulous sculptural jewelry, but because I got to meet Miriko Kusumoto. She gently and meticulously introduced me to her wonderful metal box sculpture. It was a labyrinth of doors, compartments, and hidden spaces. On one set of doors were a selection of pins, behind, a chest of drawers, holding small beautifully crafted and shirts. One surprise after another, a treasure. See my Flickr site for more images from SOFA and the BEA.