Just came back from the New York Art Book Fair. I have one word to describe the experience: oppressive. Oppressive art, oppressive crowds, oppressive music, oppressive heat, just an awful experience for me. Let me back up and say a couple of things first. First I applied for a table at the fair but didn’t get one, so the fact that I didn’t make the cut makes me super judgmental to begin with. Secondly, I went to the NYAFB two or three years ago, and I hated it. I forgot that I hated it, which is why I went back, and upon getting there I had this realization of “Oh, now I remember why I didn’t go last year. It’s all coming back to me”. Last but not least, I’m a hater. Specifically of most contemporary fine art. So with that out of the way, I will elaborate on my terrible experience.
My main gripe with the fair about art books: not a whole lot of books that are works of art. The bulk of the stuff is cheaply made, xeroxed, stapled and filled with text that isn’t even designed. And if it actually has pictures, it’s not the sort of thing that is dazzling where you wonder about the skill and imagination required to make the picture. Case in point, Printed Matter was carrying a small zine of X-Men fanart…FANART! and not even good fanart. Let me explain and say I submitted a book to Printed Matter two years ago, “Heaven and Hell”, and it was rejected. I thought to myself, “Well maybe my stuff is too cartoony for them”. But now that I’ve seen they carry fanart of comic book characters, I’m completely mystified why my book was rejected. They also had a small photo flipbook bound with duct tape because nothing says art like duct tape (it looked really cheap is what I’m saying). Also they had the aforementioned “wall of text” booklets. I’m sure there must have been books that I would have enjoyed, but just my luck, I only saw things that left me thinking “They could have tried a little bit harder”.
To further illustrate the types of books you’ll find at the show, here’s an article from Vogue that highlights five “gems”. To summarize from the article, there’s a book of found imagery because who cares if you’re not a photographer, you can just steal other people’s work. There’s one that’s filled with portraits of people you don’t know, but there’s only ten copies so it must be expensive.There’s a book with pictures of potted plants from different companies (but the concept is really deep ya’ll),and one with xeroxed pictures of sweatshirts (again, it’s conceptual. It’s too deep for a pleb like me). The last book on their list is about alchemy and there’s some photos involved.
Now obviously, there’s people who like that type of stuff. I tend to think those people are kool-aid sipping snobs, but different strokes for different folks I guess. As you can guess, I have a very hard time liking and understanding contemporary fine art. A lot of it stresses the concept of the work over the execution, and I guess I would forgive crappy looking art if the concept actually was clever. More often than not, after you dig through a paragraph of jumbled up fancy words, you discover that the concept is too advanced to be described through our current English syntax and vocabulary. Either that or it’s cliché and kind of dumb. Like the “pornography as art” shtick that was displayed in a few places at the fair. Unless it’s an Audrey Beardsley illustration, there’s not much that’s artistic about porn. The whole point of “porn as art” is to shock people. I’m not shocked. I’m bored and disappointed people still try to pull that shit to be edgy. Anyone who’s edgy knows the next frontier of shock art is surgery pictures 😛
I could literally go on for hours about how much I hate conceptual art, but I’ve probably written way too much already. In summation, I wandered into an art fair that I wasn’t suited for. I learned something though, and what I learned is that I won’t apply for a table at the show next year. This is not the right venue for a gal like me