Literature is one of the most difficult creative fields to showcase in a traditional museum. The written word is its own curation and is rarely improved by commentary and curation. The Center for Book Arts skips the challenge of exploring the actual contents of a book but rather celebrates the book itself as an object of art. Founded by master bookbinder Richard Minsky, the center hosts exhibitions, classes, and events celebrating the artistry of printing, binding, and publishing. What may sound like the least interesting part of the book is transformed into a fascinating study by the Center's presentation.
A room without books is like a body without a soul.
What You Will See
The small gallery in Flatiron feels more like a book-binding studio space than a traditional art space. Tools of the trade, from binders to printers, form the majority of the permanent collection and serve as the perfect backdrop to the rotating exhibitions held at the center. Exhibitions take a broad view of what 'book arts' entails. They have explored books in performance art, comparative book-art styles between politically and socially diverse communities, and techniques in binding to convey wealth and opulence.
Why You Should Go
Bibliophiles are always welcome here, but the Center is not exclusive to voracious readers. Most exhibitions do not touch on the contents of books--you can enjoy the topic without reading a single line of prose. This is an art gallery, first and foremost, whose primary medium is the variety of techniques and creativity expressed through the limited medium of books. You will enjoy your time touring the free gallery and will likely leave inspired to consider taking a class or attending an event. At the least, you will reconsider your own library, not as literature, but as an art collection.
The Center for Book Arts reopens with an exhibition that draws inspiration from Robert Frank's seminal work The Americans. First published in 1959, Frank's book of photographs captured the variety of the American experience in the decade following the second world war. This exhibition gathers work from over 20 contemporary artists, with updated responses to Frank's question of "What is American culture, today?", fifty years later.
Viviane Rombaldi Seppy, the Swiss-born artist, is known for exploring the contemporary migratory experience through her family history. Her latest exhibition, hosted at the Center for Book Arts, draws from the migration stories of her grandfather. Seppy uses phonebooks, maps, and other paper-based objects to construct intriguing and thought-provoking pieces.
Marcos Key is a design studio founded in Brooklyn in 2018. The studio, founded by Wael Morcos and Jon Key, specializes in language and letter design, particularly across the Middle East. The pair are Faculty Fellows at the Center for Book Arts which is hosting this small retrospective of the studio's work, including books, zines, journals and newsprints.