The biennial Vienna Art Book Fair will take place for the very first time in Vienna from 04-06 October 2019. It’s an international festival for the promotion and dissemination of artists’ publications and editions. In cooperation with the University of Applied Arts Vienna, on this weekend, the Expositur Vordere Zollamtsstraße 7, 1030 Vienna, will be turned into a theme park for booklovers.
The artists’ book as a democratic work of art will be the focus of the VABF. Hence, it is of great importance for Marlene Obermayer, the organizer and founder of the non-profit association Das Kunstbuch, to keep the event free and open to the public. The Vienna Art Book Fair #1 will provide a platform for artists, collectives, publishers, small-publishers, antiquarian booksellers, institutions, printers and for all those who are dedicated to the medium of the book.
Save the Date
Vienna Art Book Fair #1
04—06 October 2019
Over the course of three days the biennial Vienna Art Book Fair #1 provides a platform for artists, collectives, self-publishers, small publishing houses, antiquarian booksellers, art libraries, institutions, printers, collectors and for all those who are dedicated to the medium of the book.
On this weekend the Expositur Vordere Zollamtsstraße 7 will be turned into a booklovers adventure park.
Marlene, you are the organizer of the first Vienna Art Book Fair. What moved you to this?
First of all my love for artists‘ books! My first visit to the NY Art Book Fair in 2015 was a pivotal moment. This fair is an annual event organized by the non-profit organization Printed Matter, Inc. since 2006. With up to 40.000 visitors on one weekend and more than 400 exhibitors, it is one of the world’s most successful art book fairs. At that moment, I asked myself why doesn’t something like this exist in Vienna? While there had been a few smaller fairs in recent years, there was no comparable fair in Austria based on the model of the NY Art Book Fair with its comprehensive accompanying program.
I am often asked what an artists’ book actually is. There is no clear definition, but one of my favourite theories is by Lucy Lippard: “It’s an artists’ book, if an artist made it, or if an artist says it is.“
Due to my numerous visits to national and international Art Book fairs as well as through my blog Das Kunstbuch, which I started in 2012, I was able to build a large network during the past years. Last year, I decided to found a non-profit association based on my blog. Its purpose is to build a network of artists, collectives, self-publishers, small publishing houses, antiquarian booksellers, libraries, institutions, printing houses and all those dedicated to the medium of the printed book. Artists’ books constitute, in contrast to catalogues or monographs, autonomous and democratic works of art. The aim of the association is to disseminate and promote artists’ books in order to heighten the appreciation and visibility of this field.
In my mind I had been planning the fair for years, I was just waiting for the right time, and also, the perfect location, another really important piece of the puzzle, was missing. The kick-off was the opening of the new branch of the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the Expositur at the Vordere Zollamtsstraße 7 in October 2018. At the heart of the building is the atrium with its open galleries across all floors, it has a glass roof and is flooded with light. I particularly like the fact that the library of the University that holds an excellent collection of art books, is situated on the top floor.
Artists’ books seem to play a vital role in your life. What is their attraction, why are they so fascinating?
I love how books smell and feel. Space and time dematerialize in these – often portable – exhibitions, and to quote Ulises Carrion: “A book is a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment – a book is also a sequence of moments.”
I worked as a research associate at the mumok library for seven years and this time has certainly been formative. There, I have handled hundreds of thousands of books. One only has a very limited amount of time for cataloguing a book, for the book to become accessible in terms of content and form, and at some point, one automatically develops a sense to quickly determine whether it is a conventional art book/exhibition catalogue or an artists’ book. Another little-known aspect is the fact that there is a big difference between these two terms. I am often asked what an artists’ book actually is. There is no clear definition, but one of my favourite theories is by Lucy Lippard: “It’s an artists’ book, if an artist made it, or if an artist says it is.“
The Vienna Art book Fair will establish Vienna as a new location for “publishing as artistic practice”.
What can the visitors expect?
The heart of the fair will be the area VABF exhibition, where over 100 exhibitors from all over the world will present their publications. Art Book Fairs have become important places for distribution and exchange between small publishers and the audience. Delphine Bedel, the founder of the publishing platform META/BOOKS, coined the term “publishing as artistic practice“ already in 2008. Her research deals with models of production, presentation and distribution. In interviews, she has repeatedly stressed that distribution constitutes the main problem artists, as well as independent publishers, are facing today, therefore, art book fairs have been established as important places for distribution and exchange in recent years. The Vienna Art book Fair will establish Vienna as a new location for “publishing as artistic practice”.
For three days, the Vienna Art Book Fair #1 will offer an accompanying program that includes exhibitions, mini tours through the fair, book presentations, artists’ talks, readings, panels, workshop visits and performances.
If the first Vienna Art Book Fair would be a book. How would this book look like? And why?
Wow, tough question. The book would have a very conceptual structure; a publication one would have to explore for longer. The design would be very minimal, reduced to the essentials. Made of many different kinds of blank white paper – paper that would leave room for interpretation.