Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
The Stigma of Press

New York Book Fair at PS1. Courtesy of Printed Matter Inc.

I have been spending a lot of time at the Grolier Club ( lately. Founded in 1884, the Grolier is devoted to the book arts and as such it remains current today. For how long can this unique trove of printed matter be relevant?  My experience at the New York Book Fair ( this weekend tells me that books and particularly art, artists’, and rare books know a new surge of popularity especially among the younger crowd.

When I arrived at PS1 on Thursday for the opening of the New York Book Fair, I was stunned by the great number of people at the 213 book stations in the galleries, each one showcasing the work of a different independent publisher. The variety was great. From zines and ephemera, to photography collections (among which my favorite of all times, Steidl), to artists’ and antiquarian books locked behind glass cases, I had the whole spectrum of printed matter to choose from and a very many friendly faces behind the tables to greet me and tell me about their books. I touched most of the exhibits—with the exception of those that required a pair of white gloves. I was reunited with the 1968 MoMA edition of the Machine Book, one that my architecture professor let me borrow from his collection when I was working on my thesis project in architecture. It was a very emotional evening.

I took good notes on the items that interested me the most and decided to return on Sunday for another stroll through the galleries. Thursday’s impressions were confirmed. Book arts are very popular among people in their 20s and 30s. PS1 is the perfect host for such an event because the building’s layout is inviting to the visitor who likes to wander around on a personal discovery. It is already a staple hangout place for the hipsters, whose claim to fame is not their smart outfit but rather their deep knowledge of contemporary art, street art, graphic and communication arts to name just a few. The New York Book Fair at PS1, in its third year already, was the perfect platform for these young collectors to get to know who is behind the publishing houses they admire and to engage in discussion with them. Most importantly, this presented a great opportunity to take book collecting seriously.

The pleasure of collecting, even on modest means, derives from a person’s interest in a particular subject or particular type of art and increases with learning more about that subject. It also provides opportunities for discoveries previously unimagined and for creating something unique and meaningful. Don’t try to chase your preconceived notion of a “rare” book. Decide what excites you and design a way to methodically collect anything that relates to it.  With such enthusiasm among New York bibliophiles, it is certain that the Grolier Club will be around for many generations and expanding. What about the stigma of press? No such thing exists.

© Thomaï Serdari