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What to Buy at Berlin's Friendliest Art Book Fair

This weekend, Hamburger Bahnhof hosts Friends With Books, featuring the best and brightest of art publishing from Berlin and beyond.
Friends With Books, 2015. Photograph: Thomas Bruns, 2015; courtesy Friends with Books, Berlin

People love to say that print is dead. Book fairs are a chance to see just how wrong those people are. All those excited faces, looking for the serendipitous meeting with a perfect pile of pages in person, that chance encounter in the middle of any of these colorful stacks. Much like a good friend, a book can give you that welcoming look across a crowded room, and instantly, you just know that the two of you are going to get along.


Bringing you the best arty buddies of both the printed and human kinds, as well as plenty of print-related artworks, gifts and oddities, Friends with Books is taking place at Berlin's cavernous Hamburger Bahnhof this weekend, December 9-11. With a late-night opening on the first evening, the weekend-long event features over 150 international participants and a series of public programs: discussions, readings, presentations, performances, and artworks that explore the perimeters of today’s art publishing. Here, we selected some that we’d like to get friendly with:

MOLAF Incarnations


MOLAF Incarnations, 2016. Image courtesy MOLAF

The Museum of Longing and Failure was founded by Chloe Lewis and Andrew Taggart as a series of installations, presenting sculpture and immersive work across different locations across Europe. FwB will host their 18th installation of 50 sculptural works alongside the main fair, and launch their second published work, MOLAF Incarnations, a fictional narrative, featuring mind-bending cover art, based on the first 50 artworks acquired by the Museum.

No Normalisation T-shirt, Broken Dimanche Press

We are more united and have more in common than that which divides us - In memory of Jo Cox, BDP No Normalisation T-shirt, 2016. Raquel Macartney

For Friends With Books, Berlin-based indie publishers Broken Dimanche Press will be selling 'No Normalisation' T-shirts by the artist Raquel Macartney. Chosen from an open call and after an anonymous selection process, it’s one of three winning entries of slogan tees created by BDP. Macartney’s offering is produced in memory of murdered British MP Jo Cox, and turns the now-infamous words on diversity from the politician’s maiden speech to Commons into a map of the world.


Word Pharmacy


Interjections, by Word Pharmacy. Image courtesy Word Pharmacy

Can language heal us? The ten different "Word Pharmacy" boxes of healing text, created by Danish poet Morten Søndergaard, make a valiant attempt at enabling it to. Different word categories are collected together, providing just the language you need—perhaps working even faster than the aspirin you just popped. Funny, apt descriptions (“Interjections: your first words and in all probability also your last”) adorn the packages, nodding to the healing nature of words.

Event Horizon. Distributed Photography by Cecilia Grönberg. (OEI magazine / OEI editör)

Cecilia Gröberg - Event Horizon. Image courtesy OEI Editör/Friends With Books

Scandinavia has a strong presence at Friends with Books, with a fair few publishers on the roster representing Nordic publishing communities. The academic-leaning OEI magazine, dedicated to “conceptual operations and aesthetic technologies” and its associated publishing house, OEI editör, is one of those. Their latest publication is a tentacular treatise on photography by Cecilia Grönberg (who also co-edits the magazine), that takes an eight-pronged approach to the changing nature of photography and its distribution in the contemporary moment. OEI magazine’s two editors also host a discussion of the book at the fair on Sunday at 3pm.

Lubok 12

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Original linocut by Camille Pozzo di Borgo, from the book "Lubok 12“ (2015), edited by Christoph Ruckhäberle and Wernher Bouwens/ Ensba Paris, published by Lubok Verlag

Hailing from “the new Berlin” of Leipzig, Lubok produces a series of graphic books of linocuts, the most recent of which features monochrome works by 23 students of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. Its 92 black-and-white pages, produced in an edition of 500 are the 12th in the series, many of which are now sold out, so move fast.


David Horvitz, I will think about you for one minute for 1 euro, ChertLüdde

David Horvitz, I will think about you for one minute, Ongoing project, unlimited edition. Image courtesy of the artist and ChertLüdde

It’s a cruel, uncaring world out there, where people are only looking out for themselves. American artist David Horvitz has a tongue-in-cheek answer to this: he promises to think of you, for one minute, at the very reasonable price of one euro. Payments can be made into a jar at the fair at ChertLüdde’s booth. If you prefer your work more tangible, you can also buy a copy of Horvitz’s catalogue, Mood Disorder, that documents the viral internet spread of a photograph of the artist as he sits, head in hands, in front of crashing waves. Originally uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, it soon spread to stock photo websites, and (spoiler alert) ended up illustrating a wide range of articles on mental health.

Poster edition, Monica Bonvicini

Friends with Books poster edition, Monica Bonvicini

Each year, Friends with Books produces a poster edition created by Berlin-based artists, to benefit the fair. This year sees badass Italian sculptor Monica Bonvicini (best known for installing a toilet with one-way glass outside Tate Britain in 2004) create a graphic poster portraying unravelling red embroidery that depicts a pair of pliers—what better way to remember all those books you made friends with?

Friends with Books takes place on the weekend of December 9–11, 2016, at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.


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