Here Are 11 of the Rarest Works at the New York Art Book Fair

From golden Dada poetry books to a book by one of the first female tattoo artists, this year the NY Art Book Fair brought the heat.

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Sep 20 2016, 12:30pm

Into the Night Life by Henry Miller & Bezalel Schatz at Arthur Fournier Fine & Rare. All photographs by Andrew Nunes, courtesy of the artists and book sellers

Although the New York Art Book Fair is best known for bringing together talented independent publishers and bountiful quantities of exclusive art zines to MoMA PS1, there is another side to Printed Matter’s annual occasion. Tucked away in a handful of rooms on the first floor are the stands of collectors and dealers of rare and out-of-print art books, whose heavily monitored wares, hidden behind locked glass displays, reach five-figure prices without breaking a sweat.

In case you tragically missed the fair or were just too nervous to ask for a closer look at these guarded books, we’ve rounded up the rarest art books at this year’s New York Art Book Fair.

Teenage Smokers by Ed Templeton at Claire de Rouen Books

Starting us off is a signed, first-edition copy of Ed Templeton’s most iconic photography book. Within the pages of the 1999 edition of Teenage Smokers, Templeton’s images of cigarette-smoking youths manage to be painstakingly cool and nearly sensual at times, despite the innately taboo subject matter at hand.


La Revolution Surrealist Première Anée No.1 at Sims Reed

One of the rarest pieces at the book fair, La Revolution Surrealist is the first edition of a surrealist magazine from the 1920s, featuring the work of prominent artists like Breton, Tzara, Magritte, and Picasso. Beyond the sheer rarity of the near-century-old publication, this particular copy bares the signatures of every included artist on the front cover. If surrealism has a Holy Grail, this is it.

Dutch Details by Ed Ruscha at Brian Cassidy Bookseller

Ed Ruscha’s horizontal and extremely elongated art book takes on a similar concept to his famous Every Building on the Sunset Strip, with the artist photographing the scenary along a series of bridges and canals in the Netherlands. This signed, 1971 edition of Dutch Details is the rarest of Ruscha’s books, with an estimated 200 in circulation after hundreds were mistakenly destroyed in a warehouse.

Some Disordered Interior Geometries by Francesca Woodman at Printed Matter Rare and Out of Print

Published in 1981, the same year Francesca Woodman took her own life, Some Disordered Interior Geometries is the only art book the enigmatic photographer published during her lifetime. The book curiously places Woodman’s own black-and-white photography and handwritten annotations inside of an Italian geometry exercise textbook, a peculiar fusion of elementary logic and aesthetic mystery.


biologia delle passioni by Maurizio Cattelan at Danilo Montanari Editore

Jumping six decades forward is Italy’s trickster artist Maurizio Cattelan’s first published art book. biologia della passioni catalogs most of the the artist’s works until 1989, including Torno Subito, a work for one of his first exhibitions, consisting of an empty locked gallery with a sign on the front door reading “Be Right Back.”

Physique Pictorial by Tom of Finland at Harper’s Books

These magazines from the 1950s are more than just prime Tom of Finland beefcake material; they are relics of a legendary art-world friendship. On the cover of the first magazine is a dedication to Tom of Finland written and signed by Andy Warhol. In response to this gesture the iconic erotic illustrator writes “To Andy Warhol, Love Tom,” on the cover of the second issue, an emotional memento of artists long gone.

Les Mannequins by Man Ray at Sims Reed

This signed, 1966 book by Man Ray consists of a series of the artist’s unpublished photographs from the 1930s that depict the mannequins used in the surrealist exhibitions of that era. Beyond the exclusivity of its content, Les Mannequins is also highly exclusive in quantity: the book on view is one of an edition of 37.

Into the Night Life by Henry Miller & Bezalel Schatz at Arthur Fournier Fine & Rare

Informally known as Into the Night Life, the official title of this 1947 Henry Miller book is actually a 67-word run-on sentence. But more impressive than its exaggerated name are the meticulous, multicolored silkscreen illustrations by Bezalel Schatz that accompany Miller’s writings, and the out-of-print book’s small edition size of 200.

La Nouvelle Chérie de l’Amerique by Roy Lichtenstein at Zucker Art Books

This 1992 portfolio by one of Pop art’s greats consists of ten large-scale drawings and etchings, each individually signed and numbered 53/80 by Lichtenstein himself. Accompanying the artist’s prints is a text by the equally inimitable Allen Ginsberg.

How to do Good Tattooing by Miss Cindy Ray at Brian Cassidy Bookseller

This 1960s tattooing handbook was created by Miss Cindy Ray, one of the first prominent female tattoo artists from Melbourne. Long out of print, the book highlights tattooing’s infancy, a glimpse into the subculture’s history long before it reached today’s levels of ubiquity.

Vingt-cinq Poèmes by Tristan Tzara and Jean Arp at Sims Reed

Published at an extremely limited edition of 10 and on sale for a near-six figure price, this 1918 golden book of poems written by Tristan Tzara and illustrated by Jean Arp was perhaps the rarest work at the entire Fair, reserved for only the truest and wealthiest of dada connoisseurs.

Find anything good at the New York Art Book Fair? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

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