I exhibited again this year at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair and had a great time and a very good fair sales wise. This small, collegial, neighborhood fair has become one of the better fairs of the year for me. Sales were strong on Friday night and Sunday, and I met a few interesting people on Saturday. Most of sales were squarely in the avant-gardes, with books and ephemera by Andy Warhol, Alan Kaprow, Ed Ruscha and John Cage. A few pieces of modern lit. went to dealer friends of mine, including books by Kerouac, Ray Bradbury and Tennesee Williams.
I bought well, returning with two bags of books which included a nearly unique book sculpture from 1969, the rare catalogue/box for Paolo Soleri’s exhibition at the Corocaran Gallery in 1970, an additional copy of the Schwarz/Duchamp Readymades catalogue (I was protecting my price), Waverly Root’s Food of Italy, inscribed by the designer Warren Chappel, and a nice clean copy of Joseph Mitchell’s ‘The Bottom of the Harbor’. In short, something in every category in which I buy.
Other dealers had various reactions – which in my experience is the way this works. It can never be predicatable, and efforts to “understand” sales from fair to fair are pretty futile efforts. Books I brought specially for a particular customer sat in the case, while other things I may have easily left at home sold. There were several new dealers (or first time exhibitors) this year, and they seemed happy enough. I didn’t hear anyone say they were not returning except Bill Boyer, who has done this fair longer than anyone else, and says, as we all do, that it’s harder to find good books these
I will try the April NYC satellite fair this year (called the Carriage House Fair), and cross my fingers for entry into the ABAA next year. Then I’ll hop on the waiting list for the New York ABAA fair, which is certainly the fair most worth doing in the states. The fall Armory fair remains useful for me, although there is a lot of complaining about the rising prices and falling crowds. In my opinion the falling crowds are the bigger problem, partially due to the boring neighborhood where the downtown armory is located. The Greenwich Village fair benefits greatly from being in a neighborhood traditionally interested in literature and the arts, and one which now has lots of well-heeled folks willing to drop in to browse, whereas no one goes to the Lexington Avenue Armory who is not already highly motivated.
I did not attend LA this year, but many dealer friends of mine did. The word I heard was that it was OK to good, although the art related dealers didn’t do well. The LA fair remains fairly narrow and unsophisticated to my taste: modern lit., film related books, Americana, etc. (not that these fields are
unsophisticated, just that there are not so many other diverse fields well-represented).
Contrary to some of the words on book blogs these days, book fairs are not dead, they’ve just changed, like the rest of bookselling.