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The New York Art Book Fair Was Too Hot and Too Stimulating

Every year the New York Art Book Fair stuffs itself inside of Queens' MoMA PS1, and every year I go and give it all my money.
September 22, 2015, 2:50pm

All photos by the author.

Every year the New York Art Book Fair stuffs itself inside of Queens' MoMA PS1, and every year I go and give it all my money. This year was no exception. PS1 is a museum that was once a school, and the NYABF is a big craft fair full of ridiculous objects both beautiful and stupid. I went to the preview on Thursday, and again for its final day on Sunday. Here's my account of how that went.

The most interesting and least overwhelming part of the book fair is always the zine tent near the entrance to the museum.

Here is Anne Ishii who helps run Massive, a company that releases books, comics, clothing, and Fleshlights depicting the Japanese bear pinup and porn drawn by Gengoroh Tagame. She is presenting a manko sticker from a new publication of hers called What Is Obscenity by Rokudenashiko, the Japanese artist who made the vagina kayak and tries to de-stigmatize vagina imagery in Japan, a place where there is a yearly penis festival parade.

This is Jean Paul's table. Good spread of things.

As with last year, all the gay-interest zinesters were relegated to one aisle of the zine tent. In some ways, it seems like ghettoization, but I've also been told it's positive since the zinesters all get to know each other better and build stronger bonds.

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads shared a table with photographer Alexis Gross and had some real good stuff.

Heather Benjamin always has the goods. She pushes the celebration of how gross and beautiful women can be all at once. She also does regular illustrations for VICE.

Killer Acid is one of the many people redrawing familiar children's cartoons but recontextualizing them to be about drugs and stuff, but he's the only one who's actually any good at it. Everyone else is just making bad bootleg merchandise in small quantities.

And then the Thursday night press preview ended, and everyone was ushered out of the school-y museum.

I returned on Sunday to get a better look at the NYABF and saw that this year they've stationed Porta-Potties outside the museum. If I had known, I would have brought a little folding table and set up a table of my goods in one. Next year.

This is Julie Ok, the proud and organizational magazine and bookstore matron who carefully maintains and controls PS1's regularly sold books and magazines. She is very quietly playing a major role in the world of art publications, a very major and quiet role.

At this point, the NYABF becomes like an overwhelming choose-your-own-adventure book. You can either go into the big igloo, the giant building behind it, or the couple of nooks in the concrete wall to the right.

I elected to venture into the igloo, which had a small Paper Rad retrospective going on. Ben Jones didn't show up though.

I asked all the tablets to hold up their best thing. Here are some people holding up a hardcover collection of the Paper Rad zines.

The Ditto Press table was all photo books of amateur nudes and metalhead trash and stuff. Same old stuff.

The Hamburger Eyes table was pretty strong for photo books and zines. They had a Sandy Kim thing that was too expensive and other great shit. There's something about the way Hamburger Eyes does stuff that feels less voyeuristic than other photo scum zines.

This isn't a zine-maker—this is famous drug-taker, Hamilton "Hambone" Morris. Hamilton is a longtime VICE pal. We talked about drugs and zines.

Deadbeat Club had a lot of really good photo zines, but this is maybe the most covetous book I saw at the whole fair. Everyone saw this and wanted it if they knew what it was. I bought a $10 Ed Templeton zine instead of this one.

These guys rejected the whole table thing and set up a charming campsite. I can't tell what's genuinely cute or cloying anymore. I didn't feel like bending down to pick up books though.

I exited the giant zine igloo and got one of three lunch items for sale at M. Wells, the stellar eatery inside PS1. The pâté de campagne turned out to be a pork pâté, a javelin of bread, a pile of teeny pickles, and a little pitcher's mound of mustard. My deconstructed sandwich was amazing.

On the Creators Project: How Anonymous Tinder Nudes Became This Artist's Muses

Finally, inside the giant brick building that is the most of PS1, I wandered around with my sister until we lost each other. There was a Marcel Dzama four-minute short film playing on loop.

Kayrock Printing has been doing a great series of $40 art prints.I will be doing a print for them in the future.

This is Harper Levine holding up his favorite book he was displaying. He runs Harper's Books in East Hampton and had some real fancy shit on display,

Harper had the basics of fancy art-book ownership. I always think that painting a Mickey Mouse on your face is a cool move.

I feel like every expensive book dealer has at least one old book about skinhead culture, and they are usually boring.

This is the tabler from Flying Books in Shibuya holding up his favorite book.

Flying Books had great old Japanese magazines. It's hard to beat the aesthetic of old magazine cover design from Japan.

Look at how good Popeye Magazine looks. All that hot pink airbrushing. He looks like he's a hotdog.

This is Katy from Boo Hooray Gallery showing off one of their newest catalogues. Boo Hooray are the greatest.

Vasta had the best stuff in the whole art book fair, which was incredibly hot and muggy. The windowless, unventilated rooms of the museum were not made to handle the volume of people who had arrived, and some people had brought small paper fans to keep cool.

Vasta deal in old 1970s newsprint sex periodicals like Screw Magazine, but more obscure. Somehow these cheapo porno garbage possessed the supreme aesthetic that no amount of art degrees could teach you to invent.

The colors and design were so beautiful.

So many of the zines and art books seemed to be selling art made by educated artists trying to imitate trash, and it was nice to see some honest, real trash for a change. The portrayal of sex verges on nauseating. Look at the logo for Finger. Look at those amazing, attention grabbing titles. "Cookie's Slippers." "Bad News for Slaves."

I bought this one. I like that whoever laid out this cover couldn't be bothered to put the first letter in "Is cocksucking a dying art?" so it reads like some drunk slurring his speech.

I love the alliteration in "How Whores Hustle You."

It's a bummer that no one can make anything this great anymore.

I don't even know what to say. It seemed like half of the things in the book fair were pretentiously attempting to get halfway to where these beautiful covers were at, and these were just made to appeal to disgusting pervs in the 70s. I think we can objectively all agree that disgusting 70s horn dogs had better and more discriminating taste than most of the high-minded art know-it-alls who think they know what's up right now.

Then I ran into Sky Ferreira, and she showed me this book she got. I drew a logo for her and a shirt where she's a skeleton a while back.

Here's David Zwirner's table-minder holding her favorite book in front of a bunch of collaborative paintings made by Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon, which were selling for between $20,000 and $30,000. I asked if there was a discount if I bought them all, but she wouldn't tell me.

Around this point, I started to lose my mind from dehydration and overstimulation and people constantly knocking into me. I saw this in the giant and loud room with all of the art magazines in it. The Portland Museum of Art had made their sign look like a giant tote bag. I liked it. It seems like tote bags are the grown-up version of the concert T-shirt. Everybody was selling tote bags. So many goddamn tote bags. I've never bought a tote bag, and I have 20 hanging off my bedroom doorknob right now.

The Marlborough Gallery is so cool. They do shows with all the funnest artists, Devin Troy, Freeman and Lowe, all of them. I was really zonked by this time. I just wanted to leave the museum, but felt like I couldn't until I saw everything.

There was a great room with vintage posters for old drag shows, but I was having a hard time getting my eyes to focus anymore.

The last thing I remember noticing was the Book Komiyama table on the third floor, which had these original Toshio Saeki drawings for sale for like $300-a-pop.

Here's a photo of my haul. A Heather Benjamin shirt and Romantic Story, her new zine, a Hank Wood record and shirt, a Tagame comic called Cretian Cow, where a guy fucks a minotaur and gives birth to a calf, a Killer Acid patch, Ooh! #50, Brad Elterman's No Dogs on the Beach, Hamburger Eyes 16, Ed Templeton's Common Side Effects, and Alexis Gross's Same Shit Different Day.

My main takeaway from this year's NYABF was that it was too much. Each year the NYABF seems larger and harder to conquer. Maybe that's because I'm getting older, but I don't remember it being so hot and crowded previous years. I think that it should be scaled back and curated a little more discriminatorily, with maybe half the exhibitors. The zine tent is also a hot draw, but it's overcrowded and should be extended into the mostly unoccupied igloo dome in the courtyard. If you go next year, stop by and visit my table of arts and crafts in one of the Porta-Potties outside the museum.

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